No doubt credit cards are convenient to use and can be handy tools to improve your financial health, either through building your credit history to land low mortgage rates or some of the best credit card sign-up bonuses.
But used the wrong way, they can cause your debt balances to swell, racking up enormous interest charges. With that in mind, Motley Fool analysts Michael Douglass and Nathan Hamilton discuss two credit card mistakes that could lead you to get hit with unnecessary fees and fall short of your financial goals. Watch the video below to learn more.
Michael Douglass: Let's talk about some obvious credit card mistakes you want to avoid. One of the big ones is paying for your FICO score.
Nathan Hamilton: Yes. Some people may debate this, but with so many credit card issuers out there and so much competition, a lot of issuers are offering a number of perks to cardholders, and one of those is a free FICO score. I'd even go so far as to say for people looking for a new credit card, you should almost expect to have a free FICO score because there are so many out there that do offer it.
There are some other decisions that go into the process of applying for a card, but essentially looking at the total cost, if you go through myFICO.com to track [and] monitor all of your FICO credit scores across the credit reporting bureaus, you're looking at about $350-plus per year. Now if you have a credit card without an annual fee -- it's something you use to earn rewards and so forth -- you may be getting it free already. So [it's certainly a mistake] to pay that fee when you don't have to.
Douglass: Right. That totally makes sense. Let's also talk about foreign transaction fees. Now this is definitely something that a lot of cards are waiving these days.
Hamilton: Yes. And certainly travel cards. There are some travel cards, out there, that don't actually waive foreign transaction fees which, to me, is kind of shocking...
Douglass: Brutal. Like come on! Really?
Douglass: You're a travel card!
Hamilton: You're a travel credit card. Like what are you guys offering otherwise? Maybe good rewards? I don't know. But paying a foreign transaction fee is something to look at. Travel cards and regular cash back or balance transfer cards -- some of them will waive foreign transaction fees, as well.
But it puts in context the need for [this kind of] card. If [you travel a lot abroad], maybe you have a travel card that doesn't have foreign transaction fees. [The fees] typically are about 3% of the transaction if you look across the cards on the market, and you can use that in combination with, say, a cash back card that maybe does charge an annual fee. You use it in the U.S. to return cash back. Use it while you're traveling abroad, too, to nix that foreign transaction fee.
Douglass: Totally. And fortunately we have some good resources that can help you avoid some of these fees. At fool.com/credit-cards, we've got our list of the best travel credit cards. We also have our list of the best cards overall for 2017. There are some cards in there that give you your FICO score for free. So we provide that information free online. Check it out. Make sure that you avoid paying needless fees, because then you're just making somebody else rich off your money.
Hamilton: It's a disastrous three-letter word, isn't it? Fee!
Hamilton: It sounds so negative, but it is.
Douglass: And it is negative. We feel negatively about it. So again, check us out at fool.com/credit-cards. Thanks.
Hamilton: Thank you.