What is a Credit Card?
A credit card allows you to borrow money and pay it back at a later date. It can be used to make purchases or pay off balances from other credit cards.
When you read about credit cards, there are often a lot of words that can be confusing. Below are some keywords you will come across and what they mean:
APR: Annual Percentage Rate – the interest you will pay on outstanding balances. For example, if you buy a sofa for £1000 and the APR on your card is 10% you would pay £100 interest in total across the year if you did not pay the £1000 off.
Credit Limit: The maximum amount you can borrow on your credit card.
Minimum Payment: The smallest amount you must pay each month to keep your credit card account in good standing. If you do not, this can affect your credit score.
Balance Transfer: You can move existing credit card debt from one card to another. For example, if you had £600 on one credit card, you could move it to a new one. You may do this if the new credit card has a better deal in terms of interest.
Why use a Credit Card?
Credit cards may be used to buy something upfront and then be paid off later. They also can be useful to improve your credit rating, which can help with things like getting a mortgage, taking out a loan and even mobile contracts.
What to be careful of?
- It is easy to spend more than you can afford on a credit card. Your limit could be £2000 but you cannot afford to pay that back or the minimum payment on the amount. This could result in a poor credit score or paying more interest.
- If you miss a payment, your credit score could go down. This could be problematic when trying to get another loan, credit card, or mortgage.
- There may be hidden fees with credit cards. Some charge for withdrawing money, others may charge more interest after certain dates so be sure to read the small print!
How to stay safe when using a credit card
- Only ever borrow what you can afford to pay back before being charged interest
- Ensure you can always meet monthly repayments. Don’t borrow so much you can’t.
- Ideally, pay off your credit card balance each month. Or make purchases you are going to anyway on your credit card and pay it off straight away.
- Use the card if you really need to, not just because you want to. Keep it for emergencies
- Make sure you research the cards with the best offers and interest rates and always read the small print!
- Try to always stay under 30% of your credit card limit. This should help you to stay on top of your credit cards.
If you are worried about using credit cards and need some advice, or if you are in debt and don’t know how to get out of it, there are people to help!
Organisations that can help: