Since the new credit card law took effect early this year (2010), credit card holders are now protected against unexpected interest rate changes. However, the fact still remains that in order to protect personal credit, a consumer needs to manage his/her account effectively. In this article, we present eight essential tips for credit cardholders:
1. Pay down your charges. The FICO scoring model is based upon a number of factors, 30% of which is based on credit utilization. That means, the lower your credit-to-debt ratio is, the higher your credit rating can be. According to financial advisors, credit cardholders must not exceed 30% to 40% of their credit lines to maintain an excellent score.
2. Check your credit card mail. The provisions of the new Credit CARD law can be beneficial but only if the cardholder pays attention to the alerts or notices sent by the bank or issuer. Credit card companies must give advance notification at least 45 days before the change takes effect.
Remember, that the new law still does not impose a cap on interest rate increases. It is still up to the credit card company how high the new rate would be. As a credit cardholder, you are given the option to “OPT OUT” or cancel your account once the changes take into effect. If you have remaining balances in your account, you can still pay it down under the old terms you initially signed up for before your account completely closes.
3. Check your credit report and score. Consumers have theright to dispute errors or unauthorised charges so make sure that use this privilege to your benefit. Check your personal credit report at least twice a year by order one copy from each of three major bureaus. Also, don’t forget to request your annual free credit report from each of three bureaus by visiting AnnualCreditReport.com.
4. Ask for a higher credit limit. If you have a higher credit line, you can keep your credit-to-debt ratio on a lower level. If you have good credit rating, then call up your issuer to request for a raise in your limit or you can also ask for a lower interest rate.
5. Don’t let your account go idle. Once you obtained a credit card, it’s important to use it regularly, even for small transactions to keep your account from becoming idle. Some credit card companies charge inactivity fees on dormant accounts alongside the annual fees to prevent automatic account deactivation.
6. Use your rewards points. If you have a reward credit card, review the terms & conditions to be familiar with the rules of the reward program. You need to be particularly aware of blackout dates and restrictions to ensure that you will earn your well-deserved rewards and avoid getting penalized.
7. Use your credit card perks. Be familiar with the specific features that your credit card has to offer. Get to know your privileges, too. Some credit card issuers offer free car rental insurance, purchase protection, extended warranty, and other perks. You can save a significant amount of money by knowing how and when to use your credit card perks.