7 Healthy Credit Card Habits to Start TODAY!
When it comes to healthy habits, they come in all shapes and sizes. There’s working out consistently, eating your veggies and yes, there are even healthy habits to cultivate around managing your credit cards.
The number one healthiest credit card habit is to pay your balance in full every month.
But, here are a few additional healthy credit card habits that will help you not only stay out of trouble with your credit cards but may even help you increase your credit score!
Healthy Habit #1: Know Your Numbers
The number one healthy habit to adopt is to Know Your Numbers. Knowing your numbers means knowing:
- The outstanding balance on every one of your credit cards
- The available balance on every one of your credit cards
- The total outstanding balance for all of your credit cards
- The total available balance for all of your credit cards
- Each of your credit card’s interest rates
- Your overall Utilization Rate (I got you. See below!)
Most of these amounts are easily tracked by logging into your credit card’s website or in a money app like Personal Capital or Mint.
If none of those sound easy or you don’t like connecting your financial information in money apps, don’t worry, I have a free resource below to help you out!
Healthy Habit #2: Make “Micro” Credit Card Payments
Here’s a secret the credit card companies don’t want you to know: you don’t HAVE to wait until the due date to pay your credit card.
The reason credit card companies don’t want you to know you can pay your balance early is that interest is calculated on your outstanding balance daily. Thus putting more money in their pockets. Daily.
You can reduce some of this monthly interest using “micro” payments.
“Micro” credit card payments were the super secret ninja trick I came up with when I was paying off my debt. Making “micro” payments each week saved me a ton of cash in the form of interest I didn’t pay. Additionally, I could parse out the amount I wanted to pay with each paycheck towards my credit cards, which smoothed out my cash flow bumps.
A “micro” payment is a small payment you make during the month that then reduces the total amount of interest calculated on your purchases.
By making small payments throughout the month, you stop some of that interest from being added to your balance. Please note, you will need to make sure your micropayments total at least your minimum payment for the month - and hopefully more! - so you don’t incur a late fee.
Additionally, making “micro” payments fits right into the Budget by Paycheck method of budgeting I recommend if you are just getting into budgeting. “Micro” payments not only save you money on interest, but they also prevent things from getting out of hand and help to keep you out of credit card trouble!
If you’re just trying to pay your credit cards off, then making weekly payments reduces the daily interest you’re being charged throughout the month. Making micropayments saves you even more interest if you’re using the Avalance Method of debt repayment strategy.
Whether you are paying off debt, using your credit cards to collect points, or collecting some of those sweet cash-back rewards, I recommend you pay the previous week's charges during your Sunday Money Date.
During my Sunday Money Date, I have a check box to pay off the previous week’s credit card charges. Not only does this ease my anxiety around keeping myself out of credit card trouble, as I said above, but I also find it easier to manage my cash each week when I do this.
I also have an “appointment” on my calendar to pay my credit card bill so I never forget or get surprised.
If you would like to know how I manage my entire budget right in my calendar (!), check out my class Create Your Budget Right in Your Bill Calendar on Skillshare. You can watch my class and hundreds of others for free for thirty days with this link: 30 Free Days on Skillshare!
Healthy Habit #3: Review Your Credit Card Payoff Strategy
Interest rates have gone up a lot over the last couple of months. This is GREAT news if you have your Emergency Fund in an HYSA, but not such great news for your credit card interest rates.
The Snowball Method is great when you need quick wins to keep you motivated. But, the downside of this method is that you end up paying more in interest in the long run.
In the current environment of rising interest rates, credit card interest rates are also going up. That means switching to the Avalance Method can save you a ton of credit card interest right now.
Or, you can check out this video:
Healthy Habit #4: Keep Your Utilization Rate Below 30% (at least)
Your credit card utilization rate is the total amount you owe on all your credit cards compared to the total amount you COULD owe on all your credit cards.
Put another way, it’s the total amount you owe on all your credit cards divided by your total credit limit.
Total amount you owe/total credit limit = Utlization Rate
Credit card companies use your Utilization Rate to determine how well, in their opinion, you manage your money and thus your credit. Additionally, your Utilization Rate is used, in part, to calculate your overall credit score.
No one really knows how a credit score is calculated because businesses like FICO who do that sort of thing consider that their proprietary information.
BUT, we do know that your utilization rate makes up approximately 30% of your total credit score. So, just like in school when a final project was worth 30% of your final grade, how well you do on that project can impact your grade (credit score) a LOT.
Therefore, a lower utilization rate means a higher credit score! Keeping your utilization rate below 30% or, even better, less than 10% will help to keep your credit score high!
Here’s a blog and video that go into utilization a little further, if you need that: Will Closing a Credit Card Hurt My Credit Score?
Healthy Habit #5: Consider Putting Large Purchases on Your Credit Card
I know, I know, this seems weird. Usually, I tell you pay off your credit card, but this time I’m telling you to put purchases on it? Whaaa??
Just hold on a second, lol!
Actually, what I’m advocating is for you to be strategic when you need to make large purchases.
Quite often consumer protections like extended warranties may come along with your credit card benefits, and it’s in your best interest to take advantage of those benefits. Especially if your home mortgage insurance doesn’t provide coverage for large appliances or you don’t have home warranty insurance.
If you decide to use this strategy and need to carry the balance for a bit (hey, it happens), make sure to use the credit card with the lowest interest rate that offers warranty and purchase protections specifically for large purchases like appliances.
Refrigerators die, water heaters leak and air conditioners fail - usually in August! Getting that little bit of extra protection by using your credit card benefits is a good thing and makes that annual fee you might have to pay worth it.
This brings me to my next point: put the purchase on your credit card to get the consumer protection benefits and then USE your Everyday Average Emergency fund (or other savings) to pay it off!
Healthy Habit #6: USE Your Everyday Average Emergency Fund!
An “Everday Average Emergency” isn’t the BIG emergency like losing your job or a health scare that causes you to have to step out of life for a bit.
An Everyday Average emergency is just a…bad day. It’s one of those annoyances that happen and derails your day, but not your entire life. Think a flat tire, a busted water heater, or a broken dishwasher (See also #5 above).
Your Everday Average Emergency fund is money set aside to tackle those life problems.
So, when you have an Everyday Average emergency actually transfer the money from your emergency fund and pay off any amount you may have had to put on your credit card.
I know it’s hard!
I used to have the same problem because I really liked seeing the cash in my savings account! But, you will never earn as much money in interest as you will pay in credit card interest.
Read that again, because #truth.
So, as hard as it is in the moment, transfer the money and pay the bill. You’ll be glad you did when you get a credit card bill with zero balance due. :-)
Healthy Habit #7: Manage Credit Available
Just because they’ll give you more credit - doesn’t mean you should take it!
One of the side effects, so to speak, of getting your financial life in order is an increased credit score. Which is fantastic!
But, a side effect of an increased credit score is banks, credit cards and other financial institutions then want to give you EVEN MORE credit. Which, can be a great boon to your ego after years of being treated as part of the Great Unwashed. But, beware, much like eating a bag of cookies feels great in the moment, the sugar crash will make you ill.
I’ve seen this a ton of times. Someone will spend literally years paying off credit card debt and student loan debt and some company will offer them a fancy credit card like an Amex Black Card and they’ll take it thinking they’ve got this credit card thing nailed down.
But, the best way to stay out of credit card trouble, is to stay out of credit card debt.
Staying financially healthy is very similar to staying physically healthy. It’s about putting systems and personal rules around your habits and then consistently implementing those habits.
How much credit you allow yourself to have should be part of your personal financial wellness “rules”. You are the best judge of how much credit you can handle, or not. Do not hesitate to call your credit card company and ask them to reduce your limit to an amount you are more comfortable with.
With that said, you do want to make sure you manage your Utilization Rate when lowering your available credit. What you don’t want to do is lower your available credit and INCREASE your utilization rate! As we discussed in Healthy Habit #4 above, maintaining a utilization rate of 30% or less is the best thing for your credit score.
BONUS Healthy Habit #8 Read Your Credit Card Statement
This habit is a lot like eating your veggies: boring, but necessary.
Reading your credit card statement each and every month and reviewing the charges is a mandatory step in creating healthy credit card habits. Even if, maybe especially if, it’s paid off automatically every month.
Mistakes happen. But even worse, fraud happens. Typically, you only have sixty (60) days to contest a charge on your credit card bill before you could be stuck paying for it.
In the United States, the sixty-day limit is set by Fair Credit Billing Act. If you are outside the United States, you should check with whatever agency monitors credit card fraud in your country straight away if you notice a problem.
Additionally, check your cardmember agreement just to be sure you understand how each specific card you have handles fraud and any documentation you may need to prove it. You should have received a copy of your card member agreement by mail after you opened your credit card, but you can also access it on the credit card’s website.
Click here to get my FREE Credit Report Review Checklist!
Cultivating healthy credit card habits is fundamental to everyone’s personal financial wellness. Simply making time in your schedule to quickly review your credit card balances and monthly charges, keep an eye on your utilization rate, and taking advantage of credit card benefits such as consumer protections on large purchases becomes second nature after a bit.
As I’ve said, I use my Sunday Money Date to help me stay on top of most of these healthy credit card habits. But, whether you use my method or your own, the most important thing it to incorporate these habits into your monthly financial review.
All in all, just like a consistent savings practice, consistently exercising healthy habits around your credit cards will pay YOU in the long run!
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**I am not a licensed financial advisor. I am a money expert and I offer education, tips, tricks and my opinions around money. You should consult a professional who understands your needs in order to make the best decisions for you! Additionally, some links in this blog may be affiliate links, which means if you click the link and buy the product I may earn a small commission - at NO COST to You! It’s one of the ways I keep the lights on around here so TYIA! 😉
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