So you’ve decided to take the plunge and get yourself a credit card. Unwrapping that shiny little piece of plastic opens you to a world of benefits and privileges. However, there are certain rules to live by if you want to avoid falling into a debt trap that could see your credit worthiness spiral downwards and make you a financial persona non grata.
A credit card gives you the freedom to spend money that is not debited from your bank account up to a certain sum for a fixed period of time. Thus, credit cards make credit available to you as and when you need it. The amount is to be repaid based on your billing cycle to avoid penalties and fines. While the initial rush of swiping your card everywhere you go might seem the way to go, here are some points to keep in mind so card debt does not loom on your financial horizon:
Credit Card Charges:
A credit card usually comes with a whole list of Credit card charges, beginning with the joining fee. Additional charges include the annual fee, statement fees, service tax, surcharge, late payment fee, card replacement fee, etc. Exceeding your credit limit on your card will attract a charge as well. Delayed payment of your dues will also result in a penalty, which will be levied on your subsequent bill.
Not paying off the total amount due on your credit card will attract interest charges, which could be anywhere from 3%-4% a month. Doesn’t seem like much, you might scoff, but when annualised, the rate amounts to a whopping 48% on the higher end of the interest spectrum. This amount is also levied on each successive bill that has a balance carried over, which will inflate your overall amount due by a significant amount.
Picking a Credit Card that Suits Your Needs:
Picking a credit card that suits your needs is important, as this could be the deal breaker between you enjoying the perks of a card and drowning in a sea of debt. If you’re looking for a card merely to help you keep up with payments and aren’t looking for any perks, a no-frills card is the best bet for you. Looking for discounts each time you swipe at a store? A shopping credit card that offers cashback or in-store rewards is the one for you. Frequent travellers can benefit from a travel card, which converts points into air miles redeemable on flights or hotel stays.
Dates to Remember:
With your new credit card comes a host of important dates that you have to keep in mind, such as your bill payment date, the date the bill is generated etc. The date your bill is generated on marks the end of your billing cycle and lists your outstanding dues for that period only. The bill payment date is the date by which you are expected to pay off the outstanding amount or the minimum amount due to avoid late payment charges.
Credit Card Application Status
Different banks have different ways of credit card application status but most of them have an online facility, where you can apply for a credit card online as well. The process then involves furnishing all required documents and information to the bank. Once, the application process is complete, you must track your application status to check how far long has it been processed by the bank so that you can follow up with the bank accordingly. Usually, it takes up to three weeks to receive your credit card from most banks. A credit card may take a month from the date of registration, as it undergoes processing request, followed by dispatch to your home address.
Minimum Due versus Full Payment:
Credit cards offer you the chance to pay off your debt in instalments, either before the due date or after it. It is always advisable to pay off your outstanding amount by the due date to keep your credit score and repayment history healthy. However, if you are unable to pay off the whole amount, you are required to pay a minimum amount, usually a percentage of your total outstanding amount.
Getting away with paying just the minimum amount brings with it a set of charges though since you will be paying interest on the balance amount. You will also lose out on the interest-free period, meaning every successive transaction will incur interest from the day the purchase is charged to your card.
As seen above, there are quite a few pitfalls associated with credit cards that, if you aren’t careful to avoid, could leave you in debt for a considerable amount of time. Being prompt with payments, avoiding maxing out your credit card and being prudent with what you charge to your card will ensure that you reap the many benefits that come with credit cards.