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7 Tips for Getting Your First Credit Card

So you've finally decided to join the real world and open up your first credit card. Congratulations! No, seriously, you're making an excellent decision.  While you may be disappointed that the simplicity of life without any bills is over, you'll be patting yourself on the back in a few years when you realize the good credit score you've built up has given you greater financial flexibility to make major life purchases. That is, if you use your credit wisely.  Credit cards can be a responsible user's best friend, but a living nightmare for those who are careless with their spending habits. So how can you make sure your credit card is a positive force in your life?  Here are seven great tips on getting your first credit card and starting your credit off right.

7 Credit Card Tips for First Timers

1. Find the card that's right you- It may seem like a generic piece of advice, but really look around for a card that appeals to your individual lifestyle.  If possible, find a card that specifically caters to your demographic, like a student credit card.  Are you more interested in 0% interest or no annual fee credit cards?  Signing up for a card designed for someone outside of  your demographic can cause great inconvenience, so know what you're getting into.

2. Reward yourself- Are you a frequent flier?  Then an airline rewards card should be of great interest.  Or perhaps you'd prefer a gas rebates credit card, if you drive more than fly.  Getting rewards are one of the best aspects of credit cards, so consider opening one up and letting your card go to work for you.

3. Take the easy way out- If the prospect of receiving a monthly bill in the mail seems like an annoyance, find a card that offers online banking.  Many cards can be linked directly to your checking account, making for quick and easy bill paying that can be done at any time.

4. Know your limit- Many first time credit card users don't realize this, but it's a bad idea to spend all the way up to your credit limit.  Even though the credit issuer allows you to spend up to this level, it's viewed as irresponsible and can actually hurt your score.  Credit experts recommend staying at or below about 30% of your spending limit, so keep it down!

5. Say no to leftovers- Make it a habit to pay in full at the end of each monthly cycle.  Leaving a balance may cause you to accrue interest, and that can be a very slippery slope to head down.  Save yourself the headache.

6. Stick to the schedule- It's extremely wise to set a monthly bill payment date for yourself. Perhaps plan it for the day before you receive your paycheck, making the payment a much easier pill to swallow.  Credit issuers love to see regularity, as it demonstrates to them you're a dependable and responsible person.

7. Don't ignore it- Even though you may not need to charge anything on credit over the course of a month, make at least one purchase.  You can't build a good credit score unless you demonstrate to creditors a consistent history of borrowing money and paying it back in full, in a timely fashion.  The more you display your reliability, the more confidence banks can place in you when you’re making major purchases later in life that require large loans.

As long as you follow these tips, your financial life will be greatly improved with a credit card.  Do you have any other tips to give to first-timers?  Leave a comment below and share your knowledge with the world.

Photo credit: Shutterstock / OtnaYdur

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Logan Abbott's picture

Logan Abbott is a personal finance and credit card expert with over 5 years of experience writing about each topic. He is a graduate of the USC Marshall School of Business, and also contributes to other online finance publications. He has been quoted in the New York Times, San Diego Union Tribune, TheStreet, and more.

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Alfonso Furfey's picture

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