Your ability to manage your credit card balance is an important aspect of controlling your financial life: Not only will it help ensure you don’t rack up a credit card balance you can’t afford to pay off, but also the amount of your balances can impact your credit score.
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Here are seven tips to help you make sure your credit card balance is always under control.
1. Set a limit for how much of your credit line you’ll use.
Your credit card issuer may authorize you to charge up to your credit limit — but most experts recommend cardholders use a smaller amount of their available credit line(s) to maintain a good credit utilization ratio, which is usually an important factor in your credit score.
Take a look at your budget and credit cards and determine about how much you plan to charge to your credit card month by month. If you can set a personal limit of spending a certain amount, and check in with your transactions frequently, it can be a useful strategy to avoid overspending and keeping your credit card balance lower.
2. Check your credit card account activity often.
Habitual purchases like morning coffee, lunch with coworkers or an impromptu taxi ride may not seem significant enough to create debt — but they can rapidly add up to many more dollars than you originally planned.
Check your online credit card account activity daily to make sure you’re aware of what you charge — and where your money goes. You might even consider starting a budget for discretionary purchases like this to help reign in your balance.
3. Avoid juggling too many cards.
The more credit cards you own, the harder it can be to keep tabs on the credit card balance for each, especially if you use the cards for a wide variety of purchases. If you find it’s difficult to watch over your credit card balance on all of the cards, you could set calendar reminders for due dates or have alerts sent to your phone. To help keep your balances under control, these alerts can make you aware of your total spending based on a figure you personally set up on your account, such as receiving an alert if you reach $1,000 in spending for the statement period.
4. Pay more than the minimum amount due.
While the method your credit card issuer uses to calculate your minimum payment varies by issuer, paying only the minimum amount due on your credit card may mean it takes much longer to pay off your balance. Try paying more than the minimum amount due on order to better control your credit card debt.
5. Pay your bills on time.
Avoiding late payments is one of the most important things you can do. Have a hard time remembering to pay your bills before they’re late? Establish automatic bill payments of at least the minimum amount due. You can pay more toward your credit card balance by the payment due date, but at least you will have the peace of mind that you’re paying at least the minimum amount owed, on time, each month.
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6. Heed the financial red flags.
If you can afford only minimum amounts due, or you have to open new credit cards to pay for items you don’t have the cash to buy, you could be on the verge of having a credit card balance that could become difficult to manage.
If you find yourself in this situation, you could stop using your credit cards and pay only in cash for a while. Your budget may become tighter — but you’ll take control of your financial life before you’re saddled with a credit card balance (or several of them) you can’t climb out from under.
7. Put extra cash toward a credit card balance.
Have a bonus, a tax refund or similar windfall? Put it directly toward a credit card balance. It may not be as fun as taking a vacation, but financial empowerment will pay off far longer than that post-trip glow.