4 Credit Card Tricks for Newbies

by Maurie Backman | Published on Nov. 25, 2021

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A man standing at a restaurant bar holding his phone and a credit card.

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New to using credit cards? Here's how to make the most of yours.


Key points

  • Figuring out how to manage credit cards can be a learning process.
  • Check your balance regularly and keep tabs on rewards as you get started.
  • Make sure you're getting as much spending power as you can with these other tips.

Credit cards can be a useful financial tool. But when you're new to using them, they can be daunting. Here are a few tips to make the most of your credit cards without accidentally driving yourself into debt.

1. Check your balances every week

The great thing about credit cards is that they make it easier to track your spending than when you pay in cash. When you plunk down a pile of bills to pay for a purchase and lose the receipt, you can quickly forget how much you spent. But when you use your credit cards, there's always a record of your purchases. All you need to do is log in to your account and review your spending.

And speaking of logging in to your account, it's a good idea to check your credit card balances on a weekly basis. That may seem like overkill, but if you follow this advice, you may be less likely to end up overspending and racking up a balance you can't pay in full.

Say you're on your third week of your billing cycle and you notice that one of your credit card balances is higher than expected. That might serve as a warning to spend minimally until the next billing cycle so you don't wind up with a balance you're forced to carry.

2. Look for revolving rewards categories

It's common for credit cards to offer different incentives, like cash back on the purchases you make. But some cards feature revolving rewards categories where you can earn bonus points for specific types of purchases at certain times of the year. And it pays to take advantage of those categories as they come up.

Imagine one of your credit cards normally offers 1% cash back on all purchases, but it offers 5% back on hardware store purchases during the first quarter of the year. If you're renovating and loading up on supplies, you'll earn bonus money just by using that specific rewards card.

3. Ask for a credit limit increase once your income rises

Having a higher credit limit won't just give you the option to spend more (which may or may not be a good thing). It can also help keep your credit score in favorable territory.

One big factor that goes into calculating credit scores is utilization, or the percentage of your total credit limit you're using at once. So the higher a limit you qualify for, the easier it will be to keep your utilization low. That's why it pays to ask for a higher spending limit if your income goes up. You can also ask for a credit limit increase once you've had your account open and in good standing for six months or longer -- even if your pay doesn't budge much or at all.

4. Don't let rewards expire

Some credit cards offer rewards that never expire, but that's not always the case. Read the fine print on your rewards program carefully, and if you have rewards with an expiration date, mark it on your calendar. That way, you won't pass up the perks you've earned.

Credit cards could help you better manage your finances, build up a solid credit history, and earn bonus cash for the things you're buying already. Follow these tips to get started with credit cards on the right foot.

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