Getting a new credit card is exciting and if it’s your first credit card, then you’re probably ecstatic. Before you make your first purchase, or even put the card in the wallet, there are some things you should do with your new credit card.
1. Activate your new credit card.
Most new credit cards have a sticker on the front with instructions for activating the card. It’s an easy process. Just call the 1-800 number and follow the prompts. Typically, you’ll have to enter the credit card number (or maybe just the last four of the account number), the last four of your social security number, billing zip code, and maybe your telephone number. Make sure you call from your home phone – or the phone number that you put on your application. And beware of sales pitches, especially for credit card protection plans
2. Read the terms and file them away.The terms and conditions is a lengthy document that you may not want to read all in one sitting. Luckily, with new credit cards, issuers are required to include the most important pricing details on a single piece of paper. Those details include fees, interest rates, and other pricing features.
3. Know your credit limits.
Most credit cards have a credit limit - the maximum amount you can charge on your credit card without incurring a fee or triggering the penalty rate. You’ll also have a cash advance limit that may be less than the limit for balance transfers and purchases. Some credit cards, especially American Express credit cards and charge cards, don’t come with a preset spending limit
. However, these cards do limit your maximum purchase amount based on your income, payment history, spending patterns, and other factors.
4. Pay attention to promotional rates.
If your new credit card came with a promotional interest rate
, make sure you know when it expires. By law, promo rates must last at least six months, but many credit card issuers extend the rates beyond that minimum period. Even so, be sure to pay off your balance before the promotional rate ends to get the best deal. Some promotional programs will actually backdate the interest if you haven’t paid the full balance by the end of the promotional deal.
5. Learn your rewards program.
Get to know your new credit card's reward program
. With some credit cards, earning rewards is as simple as swiping your card for purchase. But other credit cards may require you to register before you start earning. Or, you may only earn rewards for certain purchases. Discover More
, for example, let's you earn 5% cashback in categories that change every few months and you have to sign up to participate.
6. Write down the customer service number.
If your card is ever lost or stolen, you’ll need to contact your credit card issuer immediately to avoid liability for fraudulent charges
. However, with your card missing, you won’t have access to the customer service number unless you save it now. Write down the customer service number and store it in a safe place, separate from your credit card. I don't suggest you write down your credit card number unless you plan to put it in an extremely safe place, like a safe or safe deposit box.
7. Create your online account.Being able to access your credit card account from the internet makes life easier. You can conveniently check your balance, make payments, and monitor your account activity. All the major credit card issuers let you register your account online and some have extra perks with the online account, like payment planners or spending analyzers. Your credit card issuer may even have a smartphone app that makes it easier to access your account anytime and anywhere.
8. Decide if you want paperless statements.Paperless statements
or e-billing is another option offered by most major credit card issuers. Instead of getting a paper statement in the mail, you’d get an email letting you know your statement is ready. Then, you can logon to your online account to view your statement. Visit your credit card issuer’s site to see if paperless billing is available and to sign up.
9. Consider autopay.If you’re the type to forget that the bills are due every month or you would like the ease of not having to worry about your payment, you may be able to set up autopay for your new credit card. With automatic payments, you can set up a payment amount and date that your payments will be made every month. Be aware that things can go wrong with autopay. For example, you have to confirm the scheduled payment is at least the minimum payment due to avoid late charges. And, you’ll have to be sure to cancel payment when you have a $0 balance. If autopay isn't available through your credit card issuer, you may be able to set it up with your bank.
10. Store the card in a safe place.Protect your new credit card from loss and theft by putting it in a safe place, like your purse or wallet, and be sure to put it back after each use. If you created a PIN for your credit card, memorize it and but never write your PIN on your credit card or store the PIN in the same place as your card.