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How to Use a Credit Card Wisely: 6 Tips You Need to Know

By: Jeff MacMillan (Vice President, Payment & Digital Solutions) and Eileen Grogan (AVP Payment Solutions)

Credit card use is more common than most might realize. According to the website Value Penguin, the average American has at least two credit cards and an outstanding balance of $5,551.1 But many people take a negative view of credit cards, including a sizable number of Millennials who may be concerned about acquiring more debt.2

Use CC Wisely

While it’s certainly possible to be irresponsible with a credit card, that depends on your own behavior and financial education. And shunning credit cards or trying to minimize their use can actually be bad for your financial wellness. There are enormous opportunities in responsible credit card use; don’t miss out on them! To take advantage of these, follow these six tips on how to use a credit card wisely, maximizing your financial gain and enjoying the benefits of good credit.

1. Find the credit card that matches your financial profile. The first step to reaping the rewards of credit card use is to make sure your card suits your means and goals. If you have a great FICO score you may qualify for a high credit limit, and a card that offers generous rewards and benefits. Affinity offers a Cash Rewards Visa® Signature card that gives you cash back on everyday purchases, and a higher cashback rate when you use it at book stores (including Amazon.com), restaurants, gas stations and supermarkets. On the other hand, if you feel you have a low FICO score3 and are trying to build up your credit, you can take advantage of Affinity’s Secured Visa® card, which offers low rates. See Affinity’s other credit card options on our website – and remember that finding the card that fits your lifestyle is key to ultimately reaping benefits!

2. Optimize your line of credit. If you get a $2,000 line of credit and use the entire line before paying any of it off, it may impact your FICO score. In contrast, having a $10,000 line of credit but using only a quarter of it at any given time doesn’t hurt your score at all, while allowing you to finance purchases. For that reason, you should think bigger when applying for a line of credit – though make sure you always spend within your means.

3. Strive for lower interest rate cards. If you’re in a position where you have a card with a higher interest rate that offers generous rewards and benefits, you should still strive to have a lower-rate card as well. Here’s why: if you’re at a store and see a luxury item you want – say, a big screen TV – it may make more sense to use (if you’re an Affinity cardholder) your Premium Visa® rather than your Cash Rewards Visa®. This is because an expensive item, while it may qualify for the minimal cash reward, could end up costing you more if you don’t pay it off immediately due to the higher interest rate. So, you can use your lower-rate card to minimize the costs. Another advantage of having a low-rate card is that you can transfer your balance from the latter to the former, avoiding paying more interest.

4. Look for cash-back rewards! Never underestimate the benefits of cash-back. Provided you have the right card and manage your spending strategically, you can make plenty of money back on purchases you would’ve been making anyway.

5. Don’t forget about hidden benefits. Affinity’s various credit cards include additional benefits, such as (in the case of the Cash Rewards card) free cell phone protection, no foreign transaction fees, 24/7 concierge service and 24/7 travel and emergency assistance. Other cards and financial institutions may offer similar benefits that you don’t notice or forget to utilize. Acquaint yourself with all these fine print details to make sure you’re getting the most out of your card.

6. Take advantage of apps. In case you haven’t heard, apps are taking over the world. And, as with credit cards, money-related apps can be overused but offer major opportunities and conveniences if they are used wisely. If you have an Affinity credit or debit card, you can link it to Google Pay. This allows you to “tap and pay” without even getting your card or wallet out. In addition to getting shopping done more easily, this app provides extra security by not requiring you to produce your card or number; a virtual account number is used to represent your information, so your card details remain safe. And Google Pay also shows your entire transaction history at one swipe of your phone, reducing the likelihood of not noticing fraudulent charges. Find out more about Google Pay and similar apps that make your life easier and safer.

Credit cards essentially allow you to put off paying for purchases that you make today until tomorrow (or next week or month). This can lead to spending beyond your means, but not if you’re careful and know all these key tips. If you know how to use a credit card wisely, it can end up as an asset to your financial wellness!

In search of your first – or next – credit card? Check out Affinity’s suite of credit cards and speak to your branch manager today!

1 Retrieved from https://www.valuepenguin.com/average-number-credit-cards-per-person

2 Retrieved from https://www.cardrates.com/news/study-2-3-millennials-hate-credit-cards/

3 Retrieved from https://www.privacyguard.com/bad-credit-score-explained.html

This information is for informational purposes only and is intended to provide general guidance and does not constitute legal, tax, or financial advice. Each person’s circumstances are different and may not apply to the specific information provided. You should seek the advice of a financial professional, tax consultant, and/or legal counsel to discuss your specific needs before making any financial or other commitments regarding the matters related to your condition are made.   - See more at: https://www.affinityfcu.com/tips-and-tools/affinity-connect-blog/2017/acronym-101-the-low-down-on-segs.aspx#sthash.HNRlWMk2.dpuf

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