For most adults, credit cards are a normal part of life. According to data from the Federal Reserve, 72 percent of American consumers have at least one credit card. Unfortunately, 53 percent of card users don’t fully understand the terms and conditions of their accounts. This leads to all kinds of misinformation and fear that stops people from getting the most out of their credit cards.
Here are some of the most persistent credit card myths that need to be busted:
1. Credit Cards Will Cost You Money
The only reason a credit card would cost you money is if you don’t handle it correctly. If the first thing you do when the card comes in the mail is go shopping, you might be in trouble. If you use up your credit without making payments on time, then you absolutely are going to be spending more money than you intended. Debt with a high-interest rate isn’t the fault of the credit card; it’s the fault of irresponsible cardholders.
2. Paying Your Full Balance Doesn’t Improve Your Credit Score
Someone at some point in time mistakenly thought if they kept a balance on their credit card each month, it would prove they were using it and, therefore, improve their credit score. This couldn’t be further from the truth.
Though there is something to the idea that you should be actively using your credit card in order to establish a better credit score, in no way should you purposely miss a payment. In fact, the exact opposite is true—timely payments are the way to better credit ratings.
3. You Shouldn’t Have More Than One Credit Card
Again, this assumption is due to the fact that so many people improperly use their credit cards. People think that if they get into debt with one card, they’ll only have more debt with several cards.
For a lot of people, that’s true. For those of you with a responsible attitude towards finance and credit, however, it’s absolute nonsense. In fact, having more than one credit card, handled correctly, can boost your credit rating more quickly.
4. Writing “See ID” on the Signature Line Stops Card Thieves
This idea has been popular for several years, and although it seems logical, it just doesn’t work the way you might hope. The premise is simple: when the card gets handed to a vendor, they’ll read “See ID” and be prompted to compare the card details to a form of ID.
According to Stephen Lesavich, co-author of The Plastic Effect: How Urban Legends Influence the Use and Misuse of Credit Cards: “A merchant is not obligated to ask for any identification at all before allowing use of a valid credit card.” So basically, the merchant might not even notice the writing. Another problem with this idea is the fact that merchants are not supposed to accept cards that are not signed.
5. Paying Less Than the Minimum Doesn’t Count as a Missed Payment
Many people are under the impression that they needn’t make full payments on their credit cards, so long as they pay something. This is absolutely untrue. If you are not making full payments, then as far as the credit card company is concerned, you are missing payments.
6. You Can Improve Your Credit Score with Branded Debit Cards
Most banks offer their clients debit cards that are branded with a credit card logo such as MasterCard or Visa. This is so that you can use your debit card to make online purchases, the same way that you would use a credit card. These debit cards aren’t actually credit accounts, however, and they don’t have any impact on your credit rating.
7. Interest Is Applied to Your Purchases Immediately after You Use the Card
Interest is not calculated on your purchases until at least 24 hours have gone by. Furthermore, if you pay the amount due before the end of the month, you won’t actually be charged any interest.
If You Don’t Understand Your Credit Card, Learn
Don’t let credit card myths stop you from using your credit cards correctly. If you are confused about the fine print on your account, take some time to get to know it better. Ask for help if you need it. Whether your card is for personal purchases or to help you manage the cash flow of your small business, it’s easy to learn to use it the right way and save yourself a lot of interest.
Given all the great things credit cards can do for you, there’s no good reason for you to continue misusing them due to misinformation. Treat them wisely, and you’ll thank yourself down the road!