Woman checks credit card account on phone

Credit Card Tips for First-Time Credit Card Users

Last Updated: February 6, 2023
3 min read

Key points about: how to use your first credit card

  1. Establish good habits like paying your statement balance each month, avoiding overspending, and only taking a cash advance from your credit card when necessary.

  2. Use your card regularly and responsibly, and enjoy cash back rewards while building credit history.

  3. Learn how your credit card issuer protects you and your credit card account and different ways to keep your card secure.

Congratulations on your first credit card! You just entered a new world of convenience, opportunity, and, yes, manageable risk. The key to happy card membership is to know what you’re doing from the start, from managing your payments to keeping your card secure. Here are some tips for first-time credit card users:

Pay your statement balance each month

Did you know?

One of the most persistent credit card myths is that using a credit card means racking up credit card debt, interest and fees, but this isn’t true. Depending on the terms of your credit card account, you can make purchases using your credit card without carrying a balance from month to month and paying interest. Many cardmembers have at least a 21-day grace period before the issuer imposes interest charges on regular purchases. All you need to do is pay your credit card statement balance on time and in full every month.

Think twice before using your credit card as a source of cash

credit card cash advance may help you out of a tight spot, but you should use a cash advance sparingly. Unlike a regular purchase, there is rarely a grace period for a cash advance, so interest starts accruing the moment it posts to your account. In addition, credit card issuers usually apply a cash advance transaction fee that can be 3 percent or more of the cash advance amount, and interest is often higher than your regular purchase Annual Percentage Rate (APR).

Watch for overspending

All credit card users must be careful with their spending, but first-time credit card users might find it especially easy to misuse their credit. A simple gut check can help. If you’re shopping and see something you want, ask yourself—would I buy it if I didn’t have a credit card? If the answer is no, avoid an impulse buy. Your credit card is a fantastic tool that can help make your life easier, but it can hurt you, too. Spending more than you can afford to pay back could result in debilitating debt and interest charges. Impulse buying is especially risky, when paying with plastic.

Use your cash back rewards

Cash back credit cards, like those from Discover, provide a rebate for every eligible purchase you make. If you’re spending the money anyway, why not get something back? And cash back can add up. For example, the Discover it® Cash Back credit card allows you to earn 5% cash back on everyday purchases at different places each quarter, up to the quarterly maximum when you activate.1

Use your credit card regularly

Most first-time credit card users may not be in the habit of making purchases with a credit card. While it’s good to keep your debt low, you’ll want to make sure you use your credit card often enough that your card issuer doesn’t cancel your account for lack of activity.

Use your credit card to build a good credit history

First-time credit card users can build credit with responsible use.2 By paying your credit card bill on time each month and keeping your balance low, you can establish a record of good credit management. This behavior can improve your credit score, which may help you qualify for more credit and better interest rates. 

Understand your credit card protection

As a first-time credit card user, it can be helpful to learn how your issuer protects against credit card fraud and other security measures like managing lost or stolen cards. For instance, you may not be liable for unauthorized purchases on your account. As a Discover® Cardmember, you’re never responsible for unauthorized purchases on your Discover Card.3 You can check with your cardmember agreement for more details and can often manage your card security using your bank’s mobile app.

Security tips for first-time credit card users

Now that you’ll be carrying a credit card, you need to pay attention to security measures. Don’t worry; it’s mostly common sense.

  • Don’t give your credit card number or any details of your credit card, including the expiration date or security code, out to others. Only use this information when making a purchase.
  • Avoid making credit card purchases on public computers or Wi-Fi unless you use secure connection services.
  • Set up mobile alerts for when a purchase exceeds a certain amount to help monitor for possible credit card theft.
  • Review the purchases on your monthly statements carefully. Criminals don’t necessarily raise red flags by spending thousands of dollars on a stolen credit card overnight. Some might make regular small purchases, which can be harder to detect.

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