Being approved for your first credit card is a big financial step, but it can also lead you into a lot of debt if you are not financially responsible. It doesn't matter how old you are--you will most likely make a mistake with your first credit card.
Here are some common mistakes for first time credit card owners.
Not Planning the Payback
You should never spend money on your credit card without having a logical plan to pay it back. That is what gets so many people in debt. They spend their money frivolously and never find a way to repay their debts in a timely manner. The sooner you can pay off the balance on your credit card, the better off you will be.
Not Sticking to the Plan
Another issue that some cardholders have is not adhering to their original plan of paying back their balance. Let's say you owe $500 on your account and you make a plan to pay back $50 a week until the debt is gone. If you only pay every other week, you'll double your payback time and increase the amount of interest that you owe on the card. If you make a plan to get rid of your credit card balance, stick to it. Force yourself to save in order to get the card paid off so you can protect your credit score and debt level.
Not Watching the Account
You always need to keep an eye on your card, even if you're not using it. This is to make sure you catch an act of identity theft as soon as it happens. You don't have to check your account daily, but try to check it at least once a week. If you notice any unauthorized charges, report them to the credit card company right away.
You also need to watch your account to keep track of the money you're spending. Ideally, you need to have a separate log of this, similar to what you have for your checking account. You can set up email or text alerts with your issuer that will let you know when you are approaching your credit limit.
Not Paying More than the Minimums
You will have a minimum amount of money to pay on your account each month, unless you have paid off your card entirely. This minimum payment is not sufficient for helping you pay off your credit card debt. Yes, you will make a very small dent in the debt, but it will take you years to pay it all back. You need to pay as much on your card as you can to get rid of the debt quickly.
Not Checking the Credit Report
You also need to keep an eye on your credit report at least once a year. This will let you see if someone has opened an account in your name without your consent. It will also show your outstanding debts and which issues you may need to resolve. You can access your report for free once a year for each of the three major credit reporting agencies at AnnualCreditReport.com.
Keep in mind that most adjustments to your credit report will not show up for 30-60 days. Thus, if you pay off a debt in February, don't be alarmed if it is still on your report in March. You may want to contact the creditor to make sure your account shows as paid, but otherwise, just be patient and wait for all of the changes to come through.
Not Using the Card at All
Some cardholders are reluctant to use their card. But you should make a transaction with the card at least once each month in order to build your credit score. If you have a logical way to pay back your balance every month, you should not have any problems with having a credit card. Make sure you know when your payments are due and how much they are so there are no surprises.