You know that paying for purchases with plastic and paying the bill on time will help you build credit, and that a high credit score can help you qualify for car loans and even a mortgage down the line.
You also know that a credit card is a powerful financial tool, and that this harmless slice of plastic can be dangerous if it is misused. If you want to enjoy the benefits of having a credit card without the risks, just follow these tips to manage your account the right way.
Consider a Secured Credit Card
It is easy to overspend when all you need to do is sign your name, and that can lead to high levels of credit card debt and years of debt repayment. A secured credit card is tied to a bank account, so you can only spend as much as you have on hand.
You can think of a secured credit card as training wheels for your spending, giving you the guardrails you need and providing an extra level of protection. And like the training wheels on your first bike, these financial training wheels can help you avoid a serious accident.
Ask for a Low Credit Limit
If you do opt for an unsecured credit card, ask the issuer for a low credit limit. The low credit limit will help you control your spending while you learn the ropes of the credit card game.
Be sure to sign up for text alerts that notify you when you are approaching your credit limit. The last thing you want is high overlimit charges and late fees on your credit report, or in your wallet.
Take Advantage of Online Access
Signing up for online access provides a number of important benefits for your first credit card, starting with the ability to track your spending and verify your purchases. Every time you make a purchase, whether online or off, you should record the amount and the merchant name. When you go online, you can crosscheck your list of purchases against what is showing on the screen.
This simple tactic allows you to see what you are spending, making it easier to pay the bill in full when it arrives. If you are unsure of your ability to pay the entire balance, it is time to cut back and go back to cash while go down the credit card learning curve.
Protect Your Account with Two-Factor Authentication
When you sign up for online access to your new credit card account, make sure you turn on two-factor authentication. This extra layer of protection is a key part of securing online access, and it is a step you do not want to skip.
Once you turn on two-factor authentication, you will receive a special code via email or text message. You will need to enter that code, along with your username and password, to get access to your account.
Getting that first credit card in the mail can be an exciting experience, but it is best to proceed with caution. With the right financial safeguards in place, you can enjoy the flexibility and safety of credit card use without the downside of debt.