Nowadays, having a credit card is practically a need. If you’re just getting started, making regular, monthly payments on a credit card is a terrific way to build a credit history and a good credit score.
Read further for everything you need to know about credit card payments.
What is a Credit Card Balance?
When you use a credit card to make a purchase, the amount you charge is added to the total amount you owe, which is known as your credit card balance. Your balance, on the other hand, is more than just the sum of your purchases. It also includes any balance-related interest you owe, as well as any fees or penalties levied by your card issuer. The following may be charged:
- annual fees
- cash advance fees
- international transaction costs
- late payment penalties
- various other fees
At the end of each monthly billing cycle, the card issuer will tell you how much you owe, the minimum payment, and when that payment is due. If you pay the minimum amount and on time, you’ll maintain excellent credit with your creditor. The remaining balance is then carried forward to the next month’s balance when interest is accrued. As a result, paying more than the minimum payment each month and, ideally, paying off your balance in full is preferable.
If you merely make the minimum payment and roll your balance over to the next month, your credit score will not be affected. However, if your balance is excessively high compared to your entire credit limit, this could be a problem. When considering how risky it is to lend money to you, potential lenders look at your credit utilization ratio. Someone who frequently uses their credit card to its limit would appear less financially secure than someone who retains a significant portion of their available credit in reserve.
In evaluating your credit score, your credit utilization ratio is also a significant component. A healthy ratio is usually 30% or less, so if you have a $5,000 credit limit on your credit card, you should attempt to keep your balance around $1,500.
How Interest Rates on Credit Cards Work
An annual percentage rate (APR) is used to determine the interest that your credit card company charges you. The APR is divided by 12 and applied to your outstanding balance each month because it is an annualized percentage. A credit card with a 20% APR, for example, charges you around 1.66% interest each month on your outstanding debt.
This is an example of a regular revolving credit card, which allows you to carry a balance from one payment month to the next. Another card, known as a charge card, resembles a credit card in appearance and functionality but requires you to pay the entire balance each month.
Some credit cards contain several APRs, for example, one for cash advances and another for purchases. All of this gets set out in your credit card’s terms, which you get when you open your account. You can also find a credit card’s terms online if you’re looking for one.
Many of the fees and penalties associated with credit cards can be avoided. However, if you’re not careful, they could end up accounting for a significant portion of your monthly payments.
Credit Card Fees: What You Should Know and How to Avoid Them
Credit cards typically come with a lot of fine print about penalties, fees, and other charges that you can accrue, sometimes unintentionally. Here are a few significant ones to be aware of:
- Late fees: You may be charged a late fee if you fail to make your minimum payment by the due date. The first late payment can cost little, and future late payments can become costly. Furthermore, credit bureaus will record late payments and display them in your credit history, potentially harming your credit score.
- Over-limit fees: Your credit card issuer may charge you an over-limit fee if you exceed the credit limit on your card. This fee varies depending on how often you go over your limit. When you try to make a transaction, some card issuers will decline any charges that exceed your credit limit.
- Annual fees: This is the yearly charge for having the card. Many credit cards don’t have annual fees, but those that do may have rewards programs that give you more money back on your purchases.
- Cash advance fees: Cash advances are available on several credit cards. This fee usually gets calculated as a percentage of the money you receive, which can be rather costly.
- Returned payment fees: This is the fee you’ll get charged if your credit card payment bounces due to insufficient funds or other reasons.
Credit cards are an excellent method to build a good credit history, but you must be careful not to overspend and wind up in debt. It’s essential that you make the required minimum payment instead of missing a payment.
However, the more of your card’s balance you can pay down, the less interest you’ll have to pay. If you can, paying your required monthly credit card amount every month will give you convenience and other benefits of a lower-cost credit card.