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How to Use a Credit Card Wisely

Last Updated: October 6, 2023
4 min read

Key points about: using credit card responsibly

  1. When used responsibly, credit cards can help build or rebuild credit.

  2. Keep your credit card information secure, don’t loan your card to friends, and don’t share images of your credit card on social media.

  3. Making on-time credit card payments demonstrates responsible use and is an important factor in your credit score.

When you use a credit card responsibly, it can offer you more convenience than other methods of payment, along with benefits such as fraud protection and rewards on your purchases. Using a credit card responsibly is also one way to build credit (or rebuild your credit), which can benefit you financially in other ways.

How to use a credit card responsibly

First, let’s examine how keeping your credit card information secure and staying aware of your credit card’s terms, like your interest rate, can help with responsible credit card use.

Keep your credit card secure

A big part of using a credit card responsibly is keeping your credit card information safe. Keep your credit cards in a secure place and always out of view in your car or at your workplace. You should never loan your cards out to others, share your credit card information or numbers, or post images of your credit card to social media. If one of your cards is lost or stolen, it’s important to immediately contact your card issuer.

If your credit card is lost or stolen and unauthorized purchases are made, you may only be responsible for up to $50, according to the Federal Trade Commission. Some credit card issuers may offer even more protection. For instance, Discover offers a $0 Fraud Liability Guarantee, where you’re never responsible for unauthorized purchases on your Discover Card.1

Did you know

Discover offers Freeze it®. Freeze your account in seconds with an on/off switch either on the mobile app or website to prevent new purchases, cash advances and balance transfers.2

Examine your monthly statements

Another aspect of properly using a credit card is to stay aware of any fees charged, your spending limit, and your annual percentage rate. These items can be found on your credit card statement.

If you carry a balance, which accrues interest, you may want to use your credit card as sparingly as possible–or only for emergencies–to avoid finding yourself burdened by high-interest debt. However, if you pay off your card balance every month, you can maximize your credit card rewards by using your credit card more frequently.

Responsibly contribute to your credit

One important benefit of using a credit card is to add to your credit history. Good credit scores may be financially beneficial and may allow you to gain access to new lines of credit and the best interest rates offered.

Let’s review some responsible ways to use your credit card that may help contribute to your credit health.

Make on-time credit card payments

Typically, the most important factor in your FICO® Credit Score3 is your payment history, and making on-time payments is essential to responsible credit card use.

Many credit card issuers offer resources to keep payments top of mind.

  • Payment alerts. When trying to build credit, one missed payment is too many. You can set up a “Payment Due” alert with your issuer and be texted, or manually create your own reminder that notifies you before your bill is due each month.
  • Auto-pay. You can also enroll in automatic payments, which allows your issuer to automatically deduct the monthly balance from a bank account.

Avoid excessive credit card debt

Credit cards allow you to spend money that you may not have in hand at that moment, which creates debt that you can choose to pay off partially or in full before your billing cycle due date. While you may want to use a credit card to pay for some smaller items in the short term, you also may want to avoid incurring large amounts of debt that can take a long time to pay off.

To avoid debt, it’s important to only spend within your means. It’s also critical to pay off as much of your outstanding balance as possible each month and not just make the required minimum payment.

The most responsible way of using your credit card is to charge what you can afford and then pay off your balance in full and on time. By not carrying a balance, you not only avoid paying interest on purchases, but are using a time-tested strategy for building credit.

Maximize your credit card rewards

Many credit cards offer rewards. When you’re choosing a rewards credit card, the right card for you is the one that rewards the way you live and spend–whether that means cash back or miles. Whichever type of reward you prefer, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t get something back when purchasing the things you need to buy anyway.

By taking a few of these steps to use your credit cards responsibly, you can continue to enjoy all the benefits of card membership while minimizing the risks.

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  1. $0 Fraud Liability: An “unauthorized purchase” is a purchase where you have not given access to your card information to another person or a merchant for one-time or repeated charges. Please use reasonable care to protect your card and do not share it with employees, relatives, or friends. Learn more at Discover.com/fraudFAQ.

  2. Freeze it®: When you freeze your account, Discover will not authorize new purchases, cash advances or balance transfers (including checks). However, some activity will continue including charges from merchants where your card is stored or billed regularly, as well as returns, credits, dispute adjustments, delayed authorizations (such as some transit purchases), payments, Discover protection product fees, other account fees, interest, rewards redemptions and certain other exempted transactions.

  3. FICO® Credit Score Terms: Your FICO® Credit Score, key factors and other credit information are based on data from TransUnion® and may be different from other credit scores and other credit information provided by different bureaus. This information is intended for and only provided to Primary account holders who have an available score. See Discover.com/FICO about the availability of your score. Your score, key factors and other credit information are available on Discover.com and cardmembers are also provided a score on statements. Customers will see up to a year of recent scores online. Discover and other lenders may use different inputs, such as FICO® Credit Scores, other credit scores and more information in credit decisions. This benefit may change or end in the future. FICO is a registered trademark of Fair Isaac Corporation in the United States and other countries.

    Discover Financial Services and Fair Isaac are not credit repair organizations as defined under federal law or state law, including the Credit Repair Organizations Act. Discover Financial Services and Fair Isaac do not provide “credit repair” services or assistance regarding “rebuilding” or “improving” your credit record, credit history or credit rating.

  • Legal Disclaimer: This site is for educational purposes and is not a substitute for professional advice. The material on this site is not intended to provide legal, investment, or financial advice and does not indicate the availability of any Discover product or service. It does not guarantee that Discover offers or endorses a product or service. For specific advice about your unique circumstances, you may wish to consult a qualified professional.