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How to Use Your Credit Card Wisely [Guide]

Knowing how to use a credit card wisely is key to your financial wellbeing. Keeping reading to find out how credit cards work and how to make sure they work for you!

We all know what a credit card is, and most of us know how to use it. But how many know how to use it wisely?

Getting a credit card and using it regularly (and responsibly) is one of the fastest and most effective ways to build or rebuild your credit. Read below for some good practices and a few mistakes to avoid.

How Credit Cards Work

Your credit card is tied to a credit account with us at Listerhill. While there are specifics to how a credit card works, the basic concept is that, when you use your card, you're using borrowed funds. You can use a credit card to purchase goods or services anywhere that accepts all major credit cards.

Some cards offer the option of taking out a cash advance. All credit cards have a credit limit, which is the maximum amount you can owe at one time. You can use your credit card until you’ve borrowed up to your credit limit. The amount left to borrow is also known as your available credit. After you make a payment, you have more available credit to borrow again.

Pay On Time and In Full to Boost Credit

Your credit score tells creditors how you manage borrowing money and repaying it, also known as your debt. A strong credit score shows you have a good record of making on-time payments on any money you’ve borrowed. However, if you've never had to make these payments, you’ll need to build up your history to even have a score.

Consider putting your regular expenses on a credit card to help establish credit without going into debt. Paying off your credit card balance in full and on time each month reports a great repayment history to the credit bureaus.

This responsible action also ensures you won't have to pay any interest on charges made to your card. Your payment history makes up 35% of your FICO credit score, so this is one of the best things you can do to build your credit.

Keep a Low Balance

Keeping your credit card balance relatively low can provide a significant boost to your credit whether you’ve just started or rebuilding with better habits. When using your credit card, be mindful of your credit utilization, which is the amount you owe as a percentage of your available credit.

Aim for 30% or lower as the higher your utilization, the more likely it is that you'll be overextended and could miss payments. To keep your utilization amount low, paying a couple of times a month is beneficial over waiting for your statement to come.

When you're swiping a card rather than handing over cash, it can be easy to lose track of how much you've spent. Get in the habit of checking your transaction history once or twice a week to make sure you're not creeping too close to the recommended 30% or lower credit limit utilization.

You can use our Credit Card Payoff Calculator as a resource in finding the most effective payoff method.

Become an Authorized User

One of the easiest ways to establish credit from nothing is to become an authorized user on someone else’s account.

An authorized user is an extension of the primary cardholder but isn't responsible for paying the bill or undergoing a credit check. You’ll receive a card connected to that person’s account and enables you to make purchases on behalf of their credit limit.

Being an authorized user won’t help you build credit as quickly as you would with your own card, but it is still worthwhile. Remember, your credit report and history are reflective of that credit card's payment and utilization history so be sure to choose someone who is financially responsible.

Understanding Interest

APR, which stands for annual percentage rate, is the annual cost of borrowing money with a credit card. It's the interest rate you pay on charges that you don't pay off within a certain amount of time.

Make sure to remember you can avoid interest charges by paying off your card's full statement balance each month. Doing this ensures you won't need to pay any interest on purchases you make.

Don’t Ask For More Credit Too Soon

New credit inquiries show up on your credit report each time you apply for a new credit card and will bring down your score by a few points. That’s why it’s good practice to pay off the balance in full and on time each month as much whenever possible.

Having too many inquiries in a short amount of time can make potential lenders categorize your application as a high risk. Spacing out your credit applications by at least six months is a best practice, especially if you’re new to establishing credit.

How to Use a Credit Card With Listerhill

Find rewards beneficial to you! A major benefit to choosing one of our credit cards is access to rewards we offer such as cashback. Before you apply make sure the card’s rewards are both accessible and useful to you.

Learn more below on how to decide which Visa Rewards Credit Card is right for you:

Comparing the Visa Cash Back & Visa Merchandise Rewards Cards

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Frequently Asked Questions

  • How do I qualify for membership at Listerhill?

    To qualify for membership with Listerhill, you must meet one of the following requirements:

    • If you live in the states of Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, or Tennessee, you are eligible to become a member.
      • Depending on your individual eligibility requirements, we may require membership into an approved association at no cost to you.
    • You can also qualify for membership by being a family member of a current or potential Listerhill member.
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  • If you do live in qualifying counties

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    • Lauderdale County, AL
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  • Is there a Listerhill branch in Athens?

    Our Listerhill branch in Athens, Alabama is under construction will be open and ready to serve you in spring 2022! Until then, our closest branch to the Athens, AL area is in Rogersville.