Most people agree that using a credit card to pay for day-to-day purchases is a smart idea. After all, credit is safe, convenient and rewarding. Plus, if you’re responsible, you’ll also be building a solid credit score with every swipe.
But are you really making the most of your plastic experience? Here are 7 credit card tips everyone should know:
1. Balance alerts can help you keep your spending in check
Keeping a watch on how much you’re spending with your credit card is easier than ever before. Most issuers allow you to set up balance alerts so that you’ll receive a text and/or an email whenever your total spending hits a certain threshold that you’ve set.
Sign up for this service so that you’ll get a notice when your credit utilization ratio is approaching the 30% mark – this way, you’ll know to make a payment before you jeopardize your credit score.
2. Spending analysis tools make sticking to your budget a cinch
One of the most underrated online banking features offered by most credit card issuers these days
A recent survey from the National Foundation for Credit Counseling indicates that more people would be embarrassed to admit their credit scores (30%) than their weight (12%).
While crash diets don’t usually work and can be unhealthy, it is possible to change your credit score fairly quickly. But just as with weight loss, “quickly” is a relative term. Seeing any improvement could take 30 to 60 days, according to Liz Weston, personal finance columnist and author of Your Credit Score, Your Money & What’s At Stake.
But nothing will change at all if you just sit there on the couch, eating Cheetos and charging items on the Home Shopping Network. So get moving!
The first thing to do is get a copy of your credit report from AnnualCreditReport.com. The three major credit reporting bureaus must give you one free copy per year, so plan to order one every four months.
Then use one or more of the following tips to boost that three-digit number that has increasing power over our everyday lives.
When you’ve recently graduated from college, the world can seem like your oyster. After four years of unpaid internshipsor part-time jobs, you suddenly can see full-time employment with a full-time salary on the horizon.
But sometimes, finding a full-time job can be more difficult than you thought it would be – and you may find yourself still at that part-time job, even though you have a degree in-hand. And even if you do land a full-time job, your post-graduation salary might not be as high as you thought it would be.
Life after college may not be the financial paradise you expected. In fact, you might be wishing someone had told you how complicated it was going to be. While you can’t go back in time, you can do your best to prepare for the future by getting your finances in order, no matter how much or how little you make. Here are several pieces of advice that can help you get on the right track.
Figure Out Your Budget
One of the best things you can do when you’ve just finished
You work hard for your money. And once it lands in your bank account, there are so many things you want to do with it.
Although you have to pay your most important bills first, it’s also important to save money for your future. In other words, pay yourself first.
So before you blow all your money on expensive must-have items, think about stashing some of it beforehand.
Here are five important savings goals to keep in mind.
1. Retirement savings
Savings Goal: 15 percent of income
Do you save money regularly for retirement? If not%2
Your credit score is the first thing people will check when you apply for a loan, a line of credit, an apartment or house, and sometimes even a job.
Many people don’t realize that simple credit card mistakes can damage your credit and make you lose out on great opportunities.
Don’t let your credit score negatively affect your life — whether that means missing out on your dream job or the lowest interest rates when refinancing student loans.
Avoid these seven most common credit mistakes and protect your financial future for years to come.
1. Applying for Store Credit Cards
It can be tempting to fill out that little application form to save X% on your purchase in the store that day. In fact, you might assume taking advantage of these savings are a good financial habit.
But did you know that just by applying, you are opening a line of inquiry on your credit that could negatively affect your score?
The more “hard inquiries” on your credit, particularly within a six- to 12-month window, the more you damage your score.
Don’t apply for a credit card until you need it
A credit report contains information about your credit such as loan paying history and the status of your credit accounts. Lenders use these reports to make lending decisions.
This information includes how often you make your payments on time, how much credit you have, how much credit you have available, how much credit you are using, and whether a debt or bill collector is collecting on money you owe. Credit reports also can contain rental repayment information if you are a property renter. It also can contain public records such as liens, judgments, and bankruptcies that provide insight into your financial status and obligations.
Lenders use these reports to help them decide if they will loan you money, what interest rates they will offer you, or to determine whether you continue to meet the terms of the account. Other kinds of companies can purchase reports to help inform them while making a wide range of business decisions such as providing or pricing insurance; renting you a residential property; providing you with cable TV, internet, utility, or telecommunication services; and (if you agree to let them look at your
There are no secrets to building a strong credit score, but following these guidelines should help:
- Pay your bills on time, every time. One way to make sure your payments are on time is to set up automatic payments, or set up electronic reminders. If you’ve missed payments, get current and stay current.
- Don’t get close to your credit limit. Credit scoring models look at how close you are to being “maxed out,” so try to keep your balances low in proportion to your overall credit limit. Experts advise keeping your use of credit at no more than 30 percent of your total credit limit.
Note: You don’t need to revolve on credit cards to get a good score. Paying off the balance each month helps get you the best scores.
- A long credit history will help your score. Credit scores are based on experience over time. The more experience you have with getting credit and paying your bills on time, the more information there is to determine whether you are a good credit risk.
- Only apply for credit that you need. Credit scores look at your recent credit activity as an indicator of
Responsible parents should want to make sure their children understand how to build credit. Like it or not, credit scores are a big deal, so why not teach your kids how to embrace them instead of ignore them?
For some parents it might seem easier to just avoid the whole credit issue. After all, credit cards can be dangerous in the hands of a teenager who doesn’t understand how they work. Other parents may understand the importance of helping their children build a solid credit history, but remain unsure about how to do it while protecting their own credit scores.
Wherever a parent stands on the issue, here are three easy ways to help your child build great credit from a young age. Follow these tips and your children should find themselves on financially sure feet relative to peers by the time they reach college. You won’t regret it, and your children will thank you.
1. Start young by opening
Let’s say big credit card balances and some late payments have hurt your credit score while problems with your car make you worry about getting to work dependably. Unlikely as it seems, you may be able to get a new car loan.
“Contrary to conventional wisdom, there are a number of reasons why a lender would help somebody with a troubled credit history buy a new car,” says Ronald Montoya, consumer advice editor for Edmunds.com. He notes that new cars are better than used ones as loan collateral and that borrowers are less likely to have to divert money from loan payments to maintenance and repairs.
So-called subprime loans — usually involving credit scores of 620 or less — have grown in the recovery from the 2008 financial crisis and now represent about one-fourth of all car loans and 15 percent of loans for new cars. So clearly loans are available for car shoppers with less-than-perfect credit.
If you want to increase your chances of buying a new car that will fit into your budget, analysts from Edmunds.com and elsewhere counsel following these steps :
Keep the price down. Don’t aim for
How do you recreate credit? While there is no such thing as a quick credit fix, here are five steps to take that can get you there:
- Review your credit reports and credit scores
- Figure out what went wrong and fix it
- Practice good credit habits to grow your score
- Protect your existing accounts
- Apply for new credit
If negative items on a credit report drag down your credit score, the solutions — and the score gains that result — tend to be slow and steady. Time and patience are often your best allies as you adopt habits proven to help your credit score, and steer clear of moves that hurt it.
Here’s a breakdown of five steps to take to clean up your credit. They’re not fast, but unlike the imaginary quick-fix manual, they have one advantage: They work.
Step 1: Look at your credit reports and credit scores
If your credit is wounded, the first step to healing is to rip off the bandage and examine the damage. Do this by requesting copies of your credit reports.
The three major credit reporting agencies — Equifax, Experian and TransUnion — each issue credit reports. Federal law
Now is a great time to focus on money saving tips that will put a few (or hopefully more!) bucks in your family’s pocket this year.
Tip #1: Save Without Using Coupons
I’ll openly admit that myhistory with using coupons, even with a large family like mine, is not consistent. When I get inspired and am having an extremely organized phase, I’m all over coupons like flies to a dumpster. When life is moving along at my usual hectic pace, however, coupons are not usually on my radar. That’s why I love taking advantage of two other amazing sources of saving on everything from groceries to electronics and vacations—Ibotta and Groupon.
Ibotta is a new Android and iPhone app that allows you to earn money by purchasing participating items. You can earn this money in addition to using manufacturer and store coupons. And the best part: You don’t even need your phone while you are shopping! All the work is done once you get home. Visit their website to learn more. You can either submit receipts or link to a loyalty account. I’ve been using Ibotta for a few months now and I literally feel like
1. You’re Stuck in a Debt Trap
“When you’re poor, it’s easy to get stuck in a debt trap because you’re desperate,” said Kristin Wong of Brokepedia. “Whether it’s a payday loan, debt settlement scam or even just using a credit card for an emergency, it’s easy to make rash decisions when you’re stressed — and these decisions usually keep people broke.”
2. You’re Ignoring Big Debts
When you’re broke, stacks of bills and overdue notices are a huge source of anxiety and dread. But avoiding those problems and failing to manage your debts only makes them worse, according to Robert Farrington, founder of The College Investor.
“A lot of young adults are burdened by student loans and other debt, yet they don’t realize there are a lot of options out there for them,” Farrington said. “For example, for student loans, there are tons of programs that can help with lower payments and even forgiveness. But you have to take positive action and seek out these programs.”
3. You Feel Powerless
When you’re poor or in the middle of a financial hardship, it can make you feel powerless to do anything to change it.
It’s generally assumed that greater wealth leads to happiness. In fact, several studies have tried to pinpoint the magic income level for happiness, including the oft-cited Princeton University study published in 2010 that found that happiness rises as income rises up until you hit $75,000 a year — at which point happiness doesn’t improve as you earn more.
But instead of wealth leading to increased happiness, the opposite might be true: Happiness leads to greater wealth, and several recent studies support this idea.
For example, a research paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America found that adolescents and young adults who report higher life satisfaction earn significantly higher levels of income later in life.
So, do you want to boost your happiness in order to perform better at work and increase your personal wealth? If so, you need to get a better idea of why happy people are able to earn more money — here are six reasons:
Happy People Take an Optimistic Approach
Employees who are happy tend to earn more money because their optimistic approach makes them more open to opportunity and new experiences, said Lynda
I don’t know about you, but finances aren’t really my strength. I’m an entrepreneur — a big picture guy. I like to tackle big problems and develop big visions. I don’t like to sit around staring at a financial spreadsheet while I spend hours upon hours entering expenses by hand.
But whether we like them or not, finances are a necessary part of running a small business. To get some insight on effective procedures that entrepreneurs can adopt to improve their own accounting practices, I sat down for a quick chat with Less Accounting founder Allan Branch.
Here’s what he had to say on this critically important subject:
1. Don’t procrastinate.
One of the biggest mistakes Branch sees new entrepreneurs make is that they put off their bookkeeping needs. If you aren’t financially-minded, programs such as Quickbooks can make small-business accounting seem completely unmanageable, especially if all you need to do is send out a few invoices and track a few expenses.
Related: 10 Ways to Avoid the ‘Elephant in the Room’: Not Getting Paid
The problem is, of course, that if you put off your accounting work, it doesn’t
Improving your finances improves your happiness, in general, so I thought it would be important to share stuff that’s worked for me.
I’m in the best financial shape in my life, despite quitting my job and my wife recently quitting hers too. A lot of that is thanks to you guys, the readers, but it’s also thanks to frugality, to eliminating debt, to saving as much as I can. To these hacks.
Here’s what works for me — please avoid flaming me, as I’m not saying they’ll work for everybody. Share your tips and tricks in the comments!
- Use cash. Instead of charging things to credit cards or debit cards, use cash for non-bill spending such as eating out, gas, groceries. Spending cash makes the spending more real, and there’s an added advantage of knowing when you’re out of cash, instead of spending more than you
- Small weekly savings transfers. I got this idea from my friend Trent at The Simple Dollar, who automatically deducts $20 a week from his check to savings. I decided that I could live with $40/week without really feeling it — it’s a relatively small transfer that