Congratulations on your first credit card! You just entered a new world of convenience, opportunity and, yes, manageable risk. The key to happy cardmembership 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 holders:

  1. You Don’t Have to Carry a Balance
  2. Understand and Avoid Cash Advances
  3. If You Can’t Buy it For Cash, Don’t Charge it on Plastic
  4. A Credit Card Can Protect You the Way Cash or Debit Never Can
  5. The Right Credit Card Can Make You a Profit
  6. Security Tips for New Card Holders

1. You Don’t Have to Carry a Balance

One of the most persistent credit card myths is that using a credit card means racking up credit card debt, but this isn’t true. You can buy everything on credit cards and never pay interest on purchases or any kind of fee, depending on the terms of your credit card account. Many credit card customers have at least a 21-day grace period before the issuer will impose finance charges on purchases. All you need to do is to pay your credit card bill on time and in full every month.

2. Understand and Avoid Cash Advances

In some cases, a credit card cash advance may be your ticket out of a tight spot, but never use cash advances casually. Unlike with purchases, you likely don’t have a grace period when it comes to a cash advance, so interest starts accruing the moment it posts to your account. Credit card issuers usually apply a cash advance transaction fee that can be 3 percent or more and finance charges are usually higher than your regular purchase APR.

3. If You Can’t Buy it For Cash, Don’t Charge it on Plastic

You’re in a store, and you see something you really want. That’s fine; most shoppers have been there. But ask yourself — would you buy it if you didn’t have a credit card in your wallet? If the answer is no, avoid the impulse buy. Your credit card is a fantastic tool, and it can help you and make your life easier, but it can hurt you, too. Impulse buying is an absolute no-no when it comes to plastic.

4. A Credit Card Can Protect You the Way Cash or Debit Never Can

The list of credit card member benefits is quite long. Benefits vary from card to card, and may include Extended Manufacturer Warranty, Car Rental Insurance, Purchase and Price Protection, Return Guarantee, and more. In addition, you may not be liable for unauthorized charges on your account. Check with your cardmember agreement for more details.

5. The Right Credit Card Can Make You a Profit

Rewards or cash back credit cards, like those from Discover, provide a small rebate for every purchase you make. Since you’re spending the money anyway, there is absolutely no reason not to get something back. And this cash back can be no small matter. The Discover it® Card, for example, allows you to earn 5 percent cash back on everyday purchases at different places each quarter like Amazon.com, grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations and when you pay using PayPal, up to the quarterly maximum when you activate. Plus, earn unlimited 1 percent cash back on all other purchases — automatically.*

Paying cash doesn’t reward you the way a credit card can when you use it responsibly for purchases you can afford.

6. Security Tips for New Card Holders

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 public WiFi unless you’re using secure connection services. Paying your credit card bills or making an online purchase at the coffee shop? Not an ideal spot.
  • Stay on the safe side and set up online alerts when a purchase exceeds a certain amount, to help monitor for possible credit card theft.
  • Check your monthly statements carefully, whether you receive them in the mail or online. Crooks don’t always go around spending thousands of dollars on a stolen credit card, raising all kinds of red flags. Some might make regular small purchases, which can make them harder to detect.

Published March 22, 2017

Updated January 12, 2021

Amazon is not a sponsor of this promotion. Amazon, the Amazon.com logo and the smile logo are trademarks of Amazon or its affiliates.

Use Rewards at PayPal: For complete details on how to Pay with Cashback Bonus at PayPal see PayPal.com/Discover. Pay with Rewards will be available for eligible credit cards on eligible purchases. All reward redemptions are subject to Discover’s reward program terms.

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.