Life is busy — between working hard at your first job to cleaning up after your multiple roommates, it can be difficult to find time to take care of everything. One of the things that can sometimes fall by the wayside are your bills. That said, there are simple ways for you to get off on the right financial footing. One of those things? Not missing your credit card payments. While it might not seem like a top priority when life is coming at you fast, getting your credit off to a strong start can serve you well later in life. Hey, you might be sharing your bathroom with four guys right now, but one day you might want to rent a place on your own, and that’s when having good credit can be helpful.

Let’s walk through why it can be important to maintain good credit and how to hopefully never miss a payment, even when you’re low on funds or your schedule gets busy.

Sign Up for Alerts

With some help, it can be easier to pay your credit card on time than it is to clean your microwave after one too many burrito explosions. Credit card issuers make it fairly simple to avoid making late payments. Some offer the option to sign up for email and text alerts to notify you when your payment is due. You can also create automatic payments to help ensure that you always pay at least the minimum amount at the same time every month.

“I always advise my clients to put simple but important monthly bills on their credit cards like the phone or internet,” shares Deborah Zelada, a debt analyst. “Those are things we can’t live without and will be conscious about paying off, more so than new shoes or a night out.”

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Pay Before It’s Due

As the saying goes, the early bird catches the worm — and also maintains good credit standing. “Prioritizing your credit card bill first and foremost will help to ensure it’s paid off every month,” says Zelada. Paying your credit card bill ahead of schedule may sometimes lower your interest rate, improve your credit score over time and keep you from maxing out the total balance — all of which may help you maintain good credit habits, says NerdWallet.

Pay More Now, Risk Less Later

If you want to speed up paying off your credit card, you can pay more than the minimum payment. According to The Balance, it might save you money on interest, improve your credit score and help you pay off your balance sooner. All major perks!

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Minimum Payments Can Be Your Friends

According to NerdWallet, a minimum payment is basically the smallest amount that your credit card issuer will allow you to pay each month. Minimum payments can be calculated in two ways: either with a base payment — sometimes $15–$40 a month, or as a percentage of the actual balance. Keeping your balance low can reduce the minimum payment and help you pay off the total balance sooner. They might also make it easier for those on a budget to factor in a credit card payment without breaking the bank.

“Minimum payments can be your friend or foe, depending on how your credit issuer spreads out the amount. Some credit card issuers allow your minimum payment to go mostly toward the balance, with a smaller percentage going toward finance charges,” says Zelada. “If you are someone new to credit with a strong desire to build a credit history, make sure you go with a card that allows you the highest opportunity to pay toward the balance to help build your credit score so you don’t end up in an endless cycle of paying off finance charges and never making a dent on your balance.”

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Why Make the Minimum Payment on a Credit Card?

So, delivery took a big chunk out of your cash flow this month and you have less than the ideal amount to cover your other expenses. Luckily, credit card terms can be very flexible and minimum payments are designed to help borrowers when they’re experiencing a hard time.

“Credit card issuers have built-in safety nets should you find yourself in a rough patch,” says Zelada, “and minimum payments are designed to help you keep your account current every month, so you can avoid late fees and other charges that will balloon your balance and make it more difficult to pay off.”

Prioritizing your credit card bill first and foremost will almost always assure that it’s paid off every month. — Deborah Zelada

What Happens If I Miss a Credit Card Payment?

Just like missing a day at work to go see the latest superhero movie can get you in trouble at the office, missing a payment might have some negative consequences on your credit. You may have to pay a late fee or the credit card issuer may be able to raise your interest rate, which ultimately adds to your total balance and new minimum payment.

“You also run the risk of ruining your credit history and losing your perks,” says Zelada. Missing a credit card payment may seem like an easy thing to do when you’re under the financial pressures of work and daily life, but the benefits of good credit outweigh the temporary stressors that may drive you to jeopardize your good financial standing. “Bad credit is something that can take just a few missed payments to accrue and years to fix,” says Zelada. “I always advise my clients to prioritize paying off credit card bills because it can affect so much more.”

Whether you are learning a new skill on the job— or building credit — it can all be about employing the tips and tricks available to you to put your best foot forward. By understanding the minimum payment and utilizing the tools available to you, you can manage your credit card account responsibly and take advantage of the sweet benefits.

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