3 Credit Card Goals to Hit Before Your 40s

by Elizabeth Aldrich | Oct. 22, 2018

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Smiling man and woman in their 40s

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A lot happens to your finances in the years before you turn 40.

Many people get married before that age, which can mean combining your finances with another person. The median age for first-time homebuyers is 32. On average, women are now having their first children at age 28, meaning the family expenses really start to build up in their 30s.

With all of these major life events, it's important to make sure your finances stay in check, and credit cards are a crucial part of that. Achieve these three important credit card goals now, and your 40s will be that much easier.

1. Pay off all credit card debt

If you racked up some credit card debt in your 20s through careless spending, you're not alone. But now that you're really in the thick of adulthood, it's time to get those bills settled once and for all. Common financial goals for people in their 30s involve buying a car or house, and you don't want to embark on either of those journeys while you're saddled with high interest debt.

You'll need to make a plan of attack. Pick a goal date by which you'd like to have your credit card debt paid off, and aim for sooner rather than later. Read up on the snowball and avalanche methods of paying off debt, and decide which method is best for you. Calculate the monthly payments you'll need to make to be debt free by your goal date.

Once you've made your plan, there are three ways you can speed up the debt repayment process: saving more, earning more, and lowering your interest rate. Make a strict budget, cut costs where you can (do you really need premium cable?), and consider an occasional spending freeze. Look into side gigs, sell things you don't need, or ask for a raise. Both of these actions will increase your disposable income, all of which you should put toward paying off your credit card debt.

If you have good credit, weigh options for lowering your interest rate in order to save money and pay off your debt quicker. You can call your credit card company and negotiate your current rate, noting your history of on-time payments. You can also shop around for a low interest credit card or a balance transfer credit card, and consider paying off your debt that way.

2. Achieve excellent credit

Good credit is always important, but it's particularly crucial in your 30s. These are the ages when many people choose to finance big purchases like a home, and your credit score is the most important factor in securing a low interest rate on a mortgage loan.

Paying off your debts will likely cause your credit score to increase. As long as you think you can spend responsibly, keep your credit cards open and use them regularly in order to continue improving your credit, always paying off your bill in full each month. By the time you're nearing 40, you should have a credit score in the 700s. If you can manage to make your way into the 800-club, that's even better. The difference between an excellent credit score and a good credit score could save you hundreds each year on your mortgage payments.

3. Maximize your credit card rewards

Now that you're officially debt-free and have an excellent credit score, it's time to start making the most of your credit card rewards. First, you'll want to make sure that the credit card you're using is actually a good fit for your spending habits and financial goals.

Don't close your old credit cards, but do consider opening a new credit card that will work better for you. If you travel a lot, you'll want to get a travel credit card. Even those with high annual fees tend to be worth it, especially when you factor in the premium travel perks they come with. If you're not interested in travel, a good cash-back credit card can easily save you hundreds each year.

Now it's time to maximize your credit card rewards. You can do this by targeting big sign-up bonuses, putting all your spending on your rewards credit cards, and learning about how to score high-value point redemptions.

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As long as you pay them off each month, credit cards are a no-brainer for savvy Americans. They protect against fraud far better than debit cards, help raise your credit score, and can put hundreds (or thousands!) of dollars in rewards back in your pocket each year.

But with so many cards out there, you need to choose wisely. This top-rated card offers the ability to pay 0% interest on purchases until late 2021, has some of the most generous cash back rewards we’ve ever seen (up to 5%!), and somehow still sports a $0 annual fee.

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