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The importance of using the right credit card

Credit Cards american-express-g151882a4f_640Dozens, if not hundreds, of websites offer lists of the best credit cards. However, you need to investigate the suggestions. Various characteristics are touted, such as rewards, but some of these recommendations are for cards with high interest rates and you aren’t told about that.

Having the right credit card can help you save money by avoiding unnecessary fees, gaining optional services, and getting rewards.

Finding the best credit card for you

When considering a new credit card, if you already have a relationship with a bank or financial institution, see what offers they have, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation advises.

Be sure to compare credit card annual percentage rates, fees, and other terms. For example, some cards might offer a great reward program or discounts, but charge an annual fee. Other credit cards offer low rates for the first year, but your interest rate will increase the following years.

Some credit cards offer rewards programs. It’s complicated to compare them. See the “FDIC Consumer News Rewards Cards – Minimize the Pitfalls, Maximize the Benefits for help in choosing among them.

Credit cards can have optional features or services such as credit protection or identity theft protection. Consider whether you need them. Contact your credit card issuer and have it explain the service.

How to control credit card debt

Setting basic rules, and sticking to them, can help you keep your credit card debt low. For example, consider using your debit card or cash for some purchases, such as for items under $20.

If you’re carrying a credit card balance from month to month, you’ll pay interest on that amount. Set goals to pay off or reduce your balance as soon as possible.

In addition, don’t use your credit card account for cash advances. They increase your balance due, and often have transaction fees and higher interest rates.

Committing to small goals to reduce your credit card debt can save you money. See the FDIC’s “Take a Look at Your New Money Habits” for tips on organizing your finances.

Disputing errors on your credit card billing statement

Billing mistakes, such as being charged twice for an item or being charged more than the purchase price, can occur. Catching any errors can save you money. Here’s what you should do to address errors:

  • Review your credit card statements when they arrive. Make sure the information on your statement is accurate, such as your balance and charges.
  • Report any errors to your credit card issuer. Contact it as soon as possible.
  • Pay the accurate charges. Even if you have a disputed charge, the other charges need to be paid.
  • Verify if errors were addressed or fixed. Your card issuer will research the disputed charges and get back to you within two statement billing cycles about what it found, what actions it took, and if you owe anything. If you owe the amount, the issuer will let you know when it’s due.

Protecting your credit card information

Be sure to protect your credit card information. Don’t provide it to unfamiliar parties, such as in response to unsolicited requests, without confirming their legitimacy. See “Beware, It’s a Scam!” to learn more about avoiding phishing, smishing, vishing, and other scams.

Don’t share your credit card information in a public place where scammers or fraudsters can see it or hear it, and steal it from you.

When making purchases online, make sure the website is legitimate and secure. Check that the website you’re on has “https” at the beginning of its URL with a lock symbol.

This symbol means the site has a protected network connection. Websites with “http” at the beginning of the URL with no “s” are more vulnerable to attacks by scammers who steal credit card information by monitoring network traffic.

Also, be wary of pop-up windows that appear while you are on a website asking for your credit card information to receive coupons or to win free items.

If you believe your credit card information was stolen or lost, contact your card issuer as soon as possible.

See “What You Need to Know About Credit and Debit Card Billing Issues” and “Banking at the Speed of Technology” for more information.

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