Getting the most out of a credit card

Keith Hodges is a personal finance journalist writing news and features for whatismoney.co.uk

Being offered a credit card can be tempting, it can seem like someone has handed you a wad of free cash and that the future will be nothing but bright. However, not using a card properly can prove costly as interest grows and the green grass the card offers slowly turns to a light yellow, dry and brittle replacement. It’s important to sign up for the right credit card and once signed up to use this card efficiently.

Introductory offers

Introductory offers are great and often play a big part in choosing which credit card to sign up for. Everyone will have different needs when signing up for a credit card and making the most offers could be hugely beneficial.

Popular offers on credit cards include 0 per cent interest on balance transfers or purchases. Normally a card will offer one or the other, but remember these offers will run out and the interest after the grace period is likely to be higher.  Making the most of a credit card here means keeping up with payments and avoiding interest all together.

Cashback is another offer that credit cards are keen to give to customers as it entices spending. To make the most of cashback you need to pay off the credit card fully on a monthly basis to avoid any potential interest payments.

Remember, missing any payments or not making the minimum payments is going to lead to the offer being withdrawn immediately and higher costs being made in the long run.

Finding the right interest rate

Finding a suitable interest rate is essential to making the most of a credit card. If you think you’ll only be making the minimum payment on the card then opt for the smallest rate you can find as this is going to cost les in the long run.

Most interest rates will be a reflection of what is available on the card. For example, a card offering cashback is likely to have a higher interest rate than a standard card.

Paying off your bill

Making the most of a credit card should be done by paying off the bill in full as soon as possible and not being heavily reliant on the card.

For example, paying for a holiday over a couple of months on a credit card can be a great idea to offset the cost of paying out for holiday.

Avoid doing weekly shopping and every spending on the card as this is what is going to build up over time and making paying off the card that little bit more difficult.

9 thoughts on “Getting the most out of a credit card”

  1. Tempting is not necessarily bad!  Credit cards are just a convenient way of paying for a product or service.  If handled responsibly it can be a rewarding experience.  Whether cash back, rewards or rebates, it is all good.

    1. @Krant: Thanks for reminding us that temptation can be good; and very tempting :). And, of course, I agree – credit cards as many other tools are multi-functional. Even a hammer can be used to build shelves or kill someone…

  2. If a lot of your income is coming from interest on savings – as ours is – the savings obtained from using a credit card and paying it off at the end of the month is worthwhile.

    It enables us to take advantage of offers that would not be worthwhile if paying cash.

    NOTE : this will only apply while interest rates are so far under inflation.   I have an OCD tendency which makes it easy for me to keep in control.  Bonus for me in the guise of a ‘problem’. 🙂

    1. @Pat: Good that you can follow all that – I tend to get confused and forget something. Still remember the days when I paid my credit cards manually and the time I missed the date because I forgot or was abroad or something – this is the main reason this all authomated now. One fewer things to worry about.

    1. @Barb: Snap! But we are in position where we already have really good deals. Young people need to shop around till they settle on something and authomate the whole thing.

  3. Ok, I consider my financial situation as stable (as it can be for a 23 y.o.) and I don’t have the inner need ‘to go with the (cash) flow’ but THE CREDIT CARD is my dirty little secret. I had a problem with paying it off just twice (paid it off next month) in the last two years, but generally speaking I think that the main thing is to have an apprioriate CC limit/salary ratio. If the limit isn’t higher than what you can pay off, everyone should be fine. I think I should review mine – I’m sick of my hands shaking every single time I log on to my bank account!!! 

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