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The Hood Magazine

Credit Cards: Find the Best One and Make it Work for You

10/27/2014 03:18PM ● By Hood Magazine
By Sara Ramirez, Certified Credit & Housing Counselor, LSS – Center for Financial Resources  

 

Credit cards can be a convenient tool for making purchases while building credit. However, when not used properly, they put stress on family finances and damage credit scores. Ensure your credit card works for you (instead of you working to pay it) by choosing the best card for your needs and using it responsibly.

Choosing the Right Card for You

Picking the right card can save you money. Compare several cards and choose one with a low annual fee. This is the amount you are charged each year for having the credit card. Also compare the annual percentage rate (APR). APR calculates the interest rate, term, and fees as a yearly rate to illustrate the total cost of using credit. The lower the APR, the lower your cost for borrowing on the credit card. Other factors to consider include fees for late payments or going over the credit limit and the length of the grace period, or the time between when you make a purchase and when interest charges begin, usually 25 days. A little research up front can save you money in the long run.

Using Your Credit Card Responsibly

1. Pay off as much as you can. Reduce your finance charges by paying more than the minimum or paying off the entire balance. Only paying the 2% minimum payment on a credit card with a $2,000 balance at 18% would take over 30 years to pay off!

2. Be sure you can afford it. Only make purchases when you already have the cash to pay for them. Don’t depend on future income to make your payment because illnesses and other events could cause that income to be less than expected.

3. Keep within your limit. Try to stay below 70% of your credit limit to build your credit and avoid over-limit fees.

4. Pay on time. This will help you avoid late fees and build credit by showing lenders you are reliable.

5. Avoid cash advances. There are extra fees, and the interest rate is usually higher.

Get debt help early. If you are having trouble, talk to a certified credit counselor who is experienced in helping people get out of debt.