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As a seasoned credit card holder, you already know the basics, like how to avoid accruing interest, why it’s important to pay your balance on time, and all about keeping your credit utilization below 30%. Now that you’ve advanced beyond the beginner stages, it’s time to level up and learn how to make the most of your credit cards.
Paying your credit card off, in full, before the due date will usually protect you from accruing any finance charges, but you probably knew that. However, if you’re looking to improve your credit score, here is another trick.
The day your monthly billing cycle ends is known as the closing date. This is also the day when your current account details are reported to the credit agencies. However, if you pay off your current balance just before the closing date, then it looks like your account has a zero balance. This will help keep your credit utilization ratio low — which is 30% of your credit score!
Unfortunately, upcoming closing dates are usually not listed on credit card statements — but your previous closing date is. Therefore, you can calculate the next closing date by simply adding the number of days in your standard billing cycle to your most recent closing date. It's always good to pay off your full balance before the due date, but it's a bonus if you can pay it off just before the closing date.
If you have a balance on a credit card with a high interest rate, you may be interested in transferring that debt to a card with a lower interest rate. Many issuers will offer a 0% APR introductory rate, or a no fee balance transfer period.
However, many experts advise novice card holders to avoid balance transfers and APR promotions, as they can lead to hefty fees and more trouble down the road. But if you have a proven track record of being responsible with credit, you could find an offer that may be beneficial.
Pro tip: Make sure you read the terms and conditions before you accept a credit card offer. In many cases, if you miss a payment, you could lose the promotional rate, and be on the hook for a lot more than you bargained for.
A credit card bonus mall is a website that offers links to several online retailers. It also offers cash back or points for every dollar spent at a certain retailer, sometimes in addition to the rewards you would normally earn.
When you sign into the bonus mall site, choose a retailer from the list of available online stores. The link will take you to the website where you can earn the extra rewards offered for shopping with that retailer.
To take advantage of the issuer’s bonus mall, you need to pay with a credit card from that issuer. Make sure your card is eligible for the bonus rewards before you use it.
The next time you’re shopping online, start by looking for deals through your credit card’s online bonus mall. With only a few seconds of effort, you can double or triple the points you earn on everyday purchases through affiliate links that are marketed by your credit card company.
Increasing your credit limit immediately decreases your credit utilization. For example, if you increased your credit card’s limit from $1,000 to $2,000 and left your $600 balance untouched, your utilization would immediately drop from 60% to 30%. That would have a significant positive effect on your credit score.
However, depending on your credit card company, getting a credit increase could negatively impact your score temporarily. That's because credit card issuers will sometimes perform a hard inquiry on your credit before they increase your limit to ensure you meet their standards. Also, you might be surprised to find that some issuers will increase their card members’ credit limits periodically as a reward for responsible spending and paying their bills on time.
Credit cards add flexibility to your everyday transactions, not to mention added perks. It’s always a good idea to take a look at your rewards program to make sure it’s still relevant. For instance, if you know you won’t be traveling for the next few years, maybe it’s time to switch from a frequent flyer miles card to a cash-back rewards card. If you have questions, feel free to talk to a banker or financial advisor to make sure you’re making the right decisions for your unique situation.
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