Three Steps To Managing A Credit Card

A credit card can be a useful tool when managed mindfully. Setting and following ground rules is a powerful first step to success.

Whether you have your first credit card or have gotten yourself into trouble with several, it’s never too soon or too late to learn good credit card management habits.  Here are some rules to live by.

Know Your Why

If you haven’t already done so, now is the time to set some ground rules for yourself. First, you need to decide why you have a credit card.

Some cards offer incentives for using them. For example, the Visa® Platinum Card at VCNB offers UChoose® Rewards Points for every purchase. These points can be redeemed for incentives like gift cards, cash back and travel. Many of our customers use this card for much of their spending and then pay off the balance when it’s due.

Some credit card holders keep their cards for emergencies. If the fridge dies or you have a medical issue, a card to help you past this bump in the road offers peace of mind. Others use their card only for building credit or for specific kinds of purchases like hotels when they travel or just at the gas pump.

This is a personal decision for you to make and there’s no wrong answer.

Keep Your Debt In Check

We caution customers against allowing debt to accumulate. In fact, we encourage customers to never charge more than they can afford to pay off in a month and to actually pay off that balance monthly. Even a small balance left unattended can accumulate large interest charges and snowball into a massive sum over time. In fact, making the minimum payment on even a few hundred dollars could be costly: added interest could amount to hundreds of dollars over a period of years before the debt is paid off.

Make A Plan For To Pay Off Debt

If you have credit card debt, we recommend making a plan to pay it off as quickly as possible.

For most people, the first step toward paying off debit is making a realistic budget. Click here to read about the basics of building a good budget.  If your budget is tight and you think you don’t have extra money for paying off that debt, click here for some practical ways to cut expenses.

Finally, avoid accumulating more debt while trying to pay off the old. It may be a challenge but you’ll never see a zero balance if you keep charging what you can’t afford. For more on this topic, visit our partners at Nerd Wallet who have a repayment calculator and tips to help you.

Are You Still Paying For Christmas?

Note with words pay off debt concept.We have a question.

Are you still paying for Christmas?

If you’re like millions of Americans, the answer is yes – you are still paying for the joy and excitement of this last Christmas morning and maybe even a few before it.  Allowing credit card debt to add up is a common mistake and, sadly, reducing debt is always a lot harder than allowing it to accumulate.

If you want to pay off your credit card but aren’t sure where to start, we have some basic steps to get you on the right track.

  1. Face reality – How much do you really owe? Do you have one credit card? More than one? Add up those balances and keep that total in mind.
  2. Make a budget – No one enjoys the ‘B’ word but a budget or a spending plan is the most effective way to get your financial house in order. Not sure how to budget? We wrote this guide a few years ago.
  3. Study up to lower expenses – Study your budget and consider how you spend your money. Are you living within your means? Are you spending too much on impulse shopping or on weekend entertainment? Are there big ticket items like car insurance that you could save on with a little comparison shopping? Save money where you can and apply the savings to your debt. Click here to read about saving money even when you think there’s nowhere to cut. 
  4. Be timely – Each time your credit card payment is late, you face a late charge. Pay at least the minimum payment on time to avoid those charges.
  5. Pay extra – With online payments, it’s easy to make an extra credit card payment. So if you have a windfall –some unexpected overtime, a tax refund or some garage sale earnings – make an extra payment.
  6. Stop adding more debt – This should go without saying but you’ll never pay off that card if you keep adding to the balance. If you must use it, be sure not to charge more than you can pay off that month.
  7. Stay motivated – Staying focused on a budget and debt payoff is hard work. Look for inspiration anywhere you can find it. Hang a debt payoff thermometer on the fridge, read success stories on Pinterest or talk to like-minded friends who are also focused on financial goals. Another great motivation tool? Dream about how good it will feel to not have credit card debt hanging over your head.