Things to Know Before Getting a Credit Card

October 4th 2015

Diana Crandall

If you want to build credit, protect yourself against theft or travel the globe, you might need to get a credit card at some point. But credit cards come with sky-high interest rates and the possibility of spending money you don’t have, so Millennials who don’t want or need any more debt might be skeptical when it comes to getting new plastic. To protect yourself from negative consequences and maximize the perks of getting a credit card, make sure to consider a few things before you sign up.

1. Identify interest rates

Usual credit card interest rates are staggeringly high, and there’s no wiggle room to negotiate that. What you can do is be responsible and aware. Make sure you understand the terms of your card, when your bill is due, and what your minimum payment is so that those sky-high percentages don’t sneak up on you.

credit card meme

RELATED: Why Young People Are Slowly Breaking Up with Credit Cards

2. Find out what you qualified for

Do you have a credit history? Is it good, or bad? Have you started making payments on bills or student loans? These factors all influence how much credit will be available to you on a card. By finding out what you qualify for, you can save time deciding the types of cards you are able to apply for. To do so, you can request a credit check. Some services require you to pay to find out your credit score, however others are free according to a federal law—this allows you to check your credit for free once per year at any of the three credit bureaus, including Experian, Equifax and TransUnion.

3. Look for good perks

Do you want cash reimbursement? What about free miles? Different credit cards offer different perks. After finding the type of card you qualify for and researching interest rates, you can look into the type of rewards that different companies offer. Find some that best benefit you, and make purchases accordingly. Some companies run promotion to double or even triple points. Others will match one mile for every $2 you spend. Make your card work for you, not the other way around.

4. Avoid scams

Make sure not to give your credit card or personal information over the phone, unless you are certain that you are on the phone with your bank. Scammers claiming to be representatives from jury duty you “missed” or companies helping to “reduce debt” might trick you into giving your information to the wrong person. Don’t fall victim to one of these scams Also make sure to shred your credit card statements before throwing away or recycling them. Finally, learn how to identify skimmers and the threat they may pose to you.

5. Consider why you need a credit card

Getting a credit card “just to have one” probably isn’t a good idea. Make sure that you make an informed decision, have an established budget, and feel financially comfortable in spending a set amount of money every month.