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Top 10 Biggest Credit Card Mistakes

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For those of us who have managed to avoid a debtors blacklist, credit cards are indispensible. You think not? When was the last time you bought an airline ticket, hired a car or paid to download music online without one?

For most people, the major problem is staying on top of the payments. However, with good management, a credit card can be no more expensive to run than its more parsimonious cousin, the debit card.

So, with sound money management principals in mind, here are the top 10 pitfalls to using credit cards.

1. Ignoring the best deals

Interest rates can vary hugely between lenders. The difference between highest and lowest rates could cost you serious money over the course of a year. Also, look out for the extras and choose the one that best suits YOU. If you hate flying, what’s the point in racking up air miles?

2. Paying the minimum, or paying late

Pay the minimum or pay off the card after the due date you lose the interest-free period on new purchases, which extends the repayment period. That's like giving away money, so stay on top of it. 

3. Not paying at all

Worst still, pay nothing and not only is your debt rising, risking your own personal credit crunch, you could be in for penalty rates. Ouch. Ignore that monthly statement at your peril. Try adding a recurring monthly reminder a couple of days before due date in your computer's calendar. 

4. Exceeding your limit

Checking your statements has never been easier with most vendors offering online services. If you’re nearly at your limit, pay a bit off, or just stop putting money on it. Bust the limit and you really will pay for the mistake. 

5. Having multiple cards

Having a wallet full of cards makes it much harder to keep track of your total debt, and the repayment dates, which become easier to miss. See above. 

6. Having a limit that’s higher than you need

The higher your limit, the greater the temptation to spend it. Stick to a manageable budget.

7. Misunderstanding introductory offers

That rate look too good to be true? It probably is. Lenders often offer discounted rates but don't shout so loudly about the time frame they operate under. The big surprise comes six months after signing up when your super low rate soars. Do the homework before you sign up.

8. Not reading the fine print

Talking of homework, read that fineprint. It’ll also tell you how much you get stung for withdrawing cash and balance transfers.

9. Buying things you don't need 

Sounds a bit obvious, doesn't it? But it's way too easy to buy things on impulse (the arch enemy of the happy saver) that you have no real use for. Take your card shopping when you already know what you want to buy and how much it costs.     

10. Not looking at your spending habits

Be honest. Do you pay bills on time? Save regularly? Spend no more than you earn? If the answer to any of these is an emphatic NO!, then maybe credit cards just aren’t for you.

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