swiping-cardUsing your credit cards regularly doesn’t have to be a scary proposition. It all comes down to using them the right way responsibly. Credit cards can be a useful tool even when used regularly, but you have to take care and use them smartly to protect yourself and get the most benefit from them.

redit cards are very simple when first used, but cardholders soon learn that they are other significant benefits that you can receive by using the card regularly with discipline.

First, cardholders learn the basics of credit card use, including getting their first card, paying their bills on time, and protecting themselves against fraud. But eventually, intermediate credit card users will want to know a few more advanced tips for receiving the most benefits from their cards such as reward points, travel perks, and the like.

If you want to take advantage of reward points, exclusive deals, and rewards through your credit card, then you need to understand how to use your credit card responsibly. Here are a few tips to help you get the most out of your credit card while using them regularly that will help move you from a beginner to an intermediate credit card consumer.

Explore Credit Card Rewards

Credit card users who consistently pay their bills in full and on time every month may want to consider using a rewards credit card. These cards offer rewards in the form of points, miles, or cash back. You can earn points and miles toward travel with airline and hotel loyalty programs. Other cards allow customers to earn cash back cards as statement credits.

According to Points.com, the average American is sitting on a pile of over 61,000 reward points through numerous credit cards and rewards programs. That’s the equivalent of over 2.65 billion loyalty memberships and an average of 21.4 per household. You’ve earned those rewards through your credit card spending and other programs, and you should make the most out of them. Understanding how many you have and the ins and outs of your credit card’s program is the first step in utilizing those rewards.

People carrying a balance on their cards may want to stick with credit cards that don’t offer rewards, miles, or cash back, however, especially if they have lower interest rates. And, you shouldn’t let the prospect of earning rewards entice you to spend more money than you normally would. Reward points, travel miles, or cash back are great added benefits of cards if used correctly.

Understand Your Credit Card Statement Closing Date

Credit card beginners focus on their statement due date, which is when they have to make a payment. But the next most important date is actually the statement closing date.

Purchases made after your credit card’s closing date are considered part of the next month’s statement. And, cardholders have an additional 30 days to make payment in full to avoid interest charges.

My wife and I use our American Express card as a budgeting tool. We charge items from our family’s monthly budget on the charge card and pay it off in full each month. Using our credit card to pay for our monthly expenditures from our allows us to rack up reward points each year.

We are also keenly aware of the card’s statement closing date. That date aligns with items in our budget. We continually watch how much we charge, when the statement rolls over, and the balance we need to pay in full to ensure that we don’t go over our budget each month. Just like using the envelope method, we have certain categories in our budget, but we simply use one credit card that we pay off in full each month instead of cash.

You should also carefully watch your credit card’s statement closing date and pay off balances before that date to have as little debt as possible on a credit report. The amount of credit you have outstanding on your credit cards can negatively impact your credit score. You’ll especially notice the effect if you let the balance roll over each month and only pay the minimum monthly required payment.

Look Into Your Credit Card’s Benefits

You may understand that certain credit cards in your wallet have benefits such as car rental insurance, travel insurance, extended warranty coverage, and other benefits associated with those cards when you use them. Most credit cards come with a wide range of standard benefits beyond what you may typically consider, and few cardholders are aware of all the benefits that their credit card company provides them.

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