When used responsibly, credit cards are a convenient and secure way to manage your cash flow, build strong credit, and earn rewards from your everyday spending.
Unfortunately, credit cards are often misused. In the second half of 2021, the average U.S. credit card holder had $5,668 in credit card debt.
Read on to learn how to properly manage your credit cards to help you avoid misuse while taking advantage of the many perks it offers.
1. Pay your balance in full
In the third quarter of 2021, Americans carried a balance on 52% of all active credit cards.
Carrying a revolving balance each month or paying only the minimum amount, can quickly pull you into a debt trap. At this point, instead of you using your credit cards, it starts using you.
The golden rule of owning credit cards is to pay your balance in full each month. Following this rule means you don’t pay any interest charges or fall into credit card debt.
To do this successfully, follow a monthly budget and charge only what you can comfortably afford to pay.
2. Aim to use less than 30% of your available credit
Always be mindful of your credit card balance and try to keep your utilization ratio below 30%. Your utilization ratio is the percentage of available credit you’re actually using.
For example, if your total credit card limit is $10,000, you should aim to keep your revolving balance below $3,000. The lower your credit utilization ratio is, the better your credit score.
A healthy credit score helps you qualify for other credit products like loans and mortgages, and get lower interest rates on those products.
Does this mean you shouldn’t make any large purchases using your credit cards?
No, making a large purchase that exceeds your credit utilization ratio won’t affect your credit score, as long as you pay it off within that statement month.
3. Take advantage of credit cards that offer rewards
Credit cards allow you to earn hundreds or even thousands of dollars worth of rewards for the purchases you’re already making.
To get the most out of your rewards, choose a card that matches your financial strategy. For example, if you’re looking for a card with a high return potential, the Save® Wealth card could be a solid match for you.
The Wealth card is the first credit card that replaces rewards with investment returns, which also makes it a great choice for those who want to start investing but don’t know where to begin.
With an average annual return potential of approximately 6%1 for the Premium Wealth card, Save exceeds the rewards leading premium credit cards deliver. It also has no variable categories, spending requirements, caps on returns, or category exclusions, which means you earn even more from your everyday spending.
While rewards are a great perk, you shouldn’t overspend just to chase them. Save lets you earn rewards without having to change your spending habits.
Click here to learn more.
4. Regularly track your spending
Keeping an eye on your credit card activity is important. Doing this regularly puts you in control of your spending and helps you catch any potential mistakes or fraudulent transactions.
Before online banking, you could only do this once a month, when your statement arrived in the mail. Today, you can track your transactions in real-time with the click of a button.
Save customers, for example, use the Save App or Online Portal to view statements and check their balances and transactions at their convenience. The app also lets customers view the investments made from their spending, their investment gains, and the remaining investment term.
5. Use your card as a budgeting tool
Following a budget is a healthy habit that helps you save money and create financial stability.
When used correctly, credit cards can be a great budgeting tool to help you manage your monthly spending.
For example, when you use your credit cards for all your expenses, you can track your cash flow all in one place using your online accounts. This helps you monitor where your money goes, how much you’ve spent, and how much you have left for the month.
Seeing your spending in real-time also helps you notice spending patterns you may otherwise not have noticed if you used cash, for example.
6. Pay your bills on time
This sounds like an obvious one, but did you know that a whopping 35% of Americans missed a credit card payment in 2018 simply because they forgot?
Even one late credit card payment can affect your credit score or increase your APR. In addition to that, you might also get hit with a late payment fee.
Luckily, you can easily avoid this mistake by setting up automatic payments each month. Alternatively, you can log into your mobile app regularly to check your due date and make sure you’re not missing it.
Making payments on time also helps you build a strong credit history.
1 For the Save Wealth Card: Average annual returns are based on hypothetical back-tested performance of the Save Moderate Portfolio from 2006 to present and are net of fees. To achieve the return on the Save Wealth Card, Save purchases a strategy-linked security whose investment value is equal to two times the dollar spent. Hypothetical back-tested performance is no guarantee of future performance and actual results will vary. Returns are subject to change daily. Minimum return will always be at least 0%. All return figures shown are for informational purposes only and are not actual customer returns. For more detailed information please see Hypothetical Back-testing.