Have you thought about the age you can typically start building credit? While age 23 may be the minimum age requirement for opening a credit card, the idea of even having a credit card may be nerve wracking for some.
We’re here to tell you everything you need to know so you can build your credit with confidence. Here are some important tips to consider before applying for your first credit card.
Don’t just make minimum payments.
You might think covering the minimum payment each month is enough, but in reality – you’ll end up paying more in interest that way. Credit cards typically have a grace period from when your statement closes to when your bill is due. If you pay off your balance in full ahead of the due date, you won’t be charged any interest (this is the ideal scenario).
Say for example, you have a $5,000 balance on your credit card with a 15% interest rate. If you only pay the minimum payment, it could take you three years to pay the full balance with an extra whopping $1,500 in interest charges. Long story short, always try to pay your balance in full.
Always make your payments on time.
Another way you could end up paying more than anticipated on a credit card, is if you miss a payment or are past due. Even if you’re only a day late, your credit card company could charge you a late fee – which can also add up if you’re frequently late. We recommend setting up automatic payments to avoid any future late fees.
Only charge what you can afford.
If the goal is to pay off your credit card balance in full each month (which it should be!), it’s important to only charge what you can afford. Don’t get trapped in “I’ll pay it off later,” because that’s how many people get stuck with credit card debt that becomes out of control.
Instead of thinking of your credit card as “free money,” treat it like a debit card. Meaning, don’t put it on your credit card if you don’t have enough money in the bank for the purchase. This may seem obvious, but it’s also very tempting to just swipe away when you get your card.
Shop around for a credit card.
Not all credit cards are created equal. Some cards are meant for new users, while others are made for more seasoned credit cardholders. It’s always best to first shop around for a credit card that meets your needs and spending habits – before committing to one just because of the alluring benefits.
For example, a store credit card may save you $20 on your next purchase, but it also may typically have a higher interest rate. Plus, those exciting discounts are usually only available in that specific store – which is smart for the business, but likely not ideal for you.
At First Financial, we offer 4 consumer credit card options that each have benefits like a 10-day grace period and no annual fees.+ Our Visa First Step Card is a great card for building credit as a first time cardholder as well.*
Always review your credit card statements.
Every month you’ll receive a bill for your credit card with a list of purchases. You should always review your statement. Why? You can catch any fraudulent charges sooner and have a better grasp of your spending habits. Many card companies offer a detailed report of your spending categories which comes in handy when budgeting and cutting costs where you can. You can even save on paper by receiving your statements online instead of through the mail.
Are you about to begin your credit card journey and don’t know where to start? You can rest assured knowing our financial experts are happy to give you advice based on your situation. Contact us to get started, or stop by your local branch to speak with a representative today!
*APR varies from 13.15% to 18% for the Visa First Step Card when you open your account based on your credit worthiness. These APRs are for purchases and will vary with the market based on the Prime Rate. Subject to credit approval. Rates quoted assume excellent borrower credit history. Your actual APR may vary based on your state of residence, approved loan amount, applicable discounts and your credit history. No Annual Fees. Other fees that apply: Balance Transfer and Cash Advance Fees of 3% or $10, whichever is greater; Late Payment Fee of $29, $10 Card Replacement Fee, and Returned Payment Fee of $29. A First Financial membership is required to obtain a Visa Credit Card and is available to anyone who lives, works, worships, volunteers, or attends school in Monmouth or Ocean Counties.
+No late fee will be charged if payment is received within 10 days from the payment due date.