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Updated June 14, 2016

Are These Credit Card Mistakes Holding You Back?

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Mistakes can cost you — especially if the mistakes you're making are with credit cards.

Some flubs are more obvious than others (we hope we don't need to remind you to always pay more than your minimum balance) and some you may not even realize you're making.

Look over this list to see if you're making any of these mistakes and see how you can improve. Don't let these mistakes hold you back from your financial goals.

You keep forgetting to pay on time

Many of us have missed a payment at some point. It's easy to lose the bill, forget to put the check in the mail, or to wait until the last minute and somehow let the whole thing slip your mind.

But the credit card companies never forget, and you'll get a bill the next month that's even higher, with interest charges tacked on and possibly even a late fee. That's wasted money. Set up alerts, reminders, automatic bill payment — whatever it takes to never miss a payment again.

You pay only a portion of your balance each month

Look, we understand. Sometimes you cannot pay off your entire balance each month (please, no matter what you do, always pay more the minimum). And it's tempting not to at other times since the credit card companies are not very demanding about it, are they?

But those interest charges will add up and you'll end up paying a lot more in the long run for those groceries you bought months ago (whatever money you saved by using those carefully snipped coupons will have disappeared).

If this is a habit you can't break, then take a hard look at the cards you have and their APR. You may be better off with a card that has a lower interest rate.

You let yourself get overwhelmed by the debt you owe

Take a deep breath. Being in denial about the debt you owe is not getting you anywhere. Rather than feeling overwhelmed, accept the reality and come up with a plan for ridding yourself of it.

What, you don't have rich parents to call to help bail you out of this one? Join the club and take action:

  • The quickest step to making a dent in your debt is a balance transfer.
  • You can move your balance on a credit card to a new card that has a lengthy promotional rate of 0% APR, giving you time to catch up on what you owe.
  • Here is a list of the top balance transfer credit cards.

You don't keep tabs on your credit score

Here's the brutal truth:

The best credit card deals are for people with excellent credit.

Do you know whether you have excellent credit or not? For all you know, you could be viewed as someone with a so-so credit reputation because there's an error in your credit report or someone has delved into your identity.

It's up to you to take a look at your credit score every once in a while and notice any big changes that work against your favor. Some cards, like those offered by Discover, will even show you your score on every credit card statement.

You don't pay attention to your card's rewards program

If you're paying an annual fee on a rewards card but not using it for its full potential, it's time to look for a new card. Some cards, like the Chase Freedom and Discover It, don't have an annual fee and have rewards systems that change every 3 months. It's easy to lose track of a specific offer or to forget to sign up for such programs.

But if a rewards card is offering you 5% cash back on your gas purchases and you're using another card in your wallet during that time — well, you're giving up a potential of $75 in cash over a three-month period (Chase and Discover's rewards for 5% in bonus categories are limited to the first $1,500 in combined spending in the special rewards categories).

You buy stuff just to get the points

Here's the thing about rewards cards:

They are great when you use them on items you would buy anyway — but not because you're getting a bunch of bonus points by spending a certain amount in a month or you're getting a bigger bucket of cash back because you're going to a particular store.

If you know you'll be tempted to buy more than you should (or even want) just because of a flashy rewards offer, then steer clear of rewards cards that have changing rewards categories and stick with the kind that reward you for everyday purchases, like trips to the gas station and groceries.

You pay an annual fee on a card you rarely use

Your spending habits change over time, and so does your need for certain credit cards. Since many cards with annual fees will automatically charge you every year, you either may not notice you're getting charged for it or you just don't want to bother with the hassle of canceling. But there's no point in paying that annual fee every year if you're:

  • not up for the cost of using the card by accumulating enough rewards with the card or
  • hardly using the card at all.

Make a point of looking at your mix of credit cards every year and see whether you need the ones you have or it's time for a new one. You don't want to cancel a bunch of cards at once — that can hurt your credit score — but it may be time to add a new credit card with no annual fee to your wallet and rid yourself of the one with the annual fee that you're not fully using.


It's never too late to start saving money…

PS: Some who read this page and realize their shortcomings will do something about them. Most will stay in the rut. A few will plan for financial success and stay with it until they get there. Which one are you?

Charles Tran is the founder of CreditDonkey, a credit card comparison and financial education website. Write to Charles Tran at charles@creditdonkey.com. Our data-driven analysis has been recognized by major news outlets across the country and has helped consumers make savvy financial and lifestyle decisions. (read more)

Editorial Note: Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author's alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer. This site may be compensated through the Advertiser's affiliate programs.

Disclaimer: The information for the Chase Freedom and Discover it® - Cashback Match™ has been collected independently by CreditDonkey. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

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CreditDonkey is a credit card comparison website. We publish data-driven analysis to help you save money & make savvy financial decisions.

Editorial Note: Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed on this page are those of the author's alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer.

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CreditDonkey does not know your individual circumstances and provides information for general educational purposes only. CreditDonkey is not a substitute for, and should not be used as, professional legal, credit or financial advice. You should consult your own professional advisors for such advice.