You might think that credit cards are the only way to make purchases using plastic. but you’d be wrong. When it comes to those little pieces of plastic, there are credit cards and charge cards. Both offer certain features but if your goal is to increase your credit score without adding on more debt, a charge card might be your best option.
There are a number of similarities between charge cards and credit cards. They both represent a line of unsecured credit provived to you by the company that issued the card. Both mean that you’re essentially being given a short-term loan whenever you use the card and it’s expected that by the end of the month you will repay this loan.
Both charge cards and credit cards are fairly comparable when it comes to offering rewards. You could be getting cash back, points or miles every time you spend a dollar. Which one of these you’d get earn will depend on the card you choose.
Both credit cards and charge cards have very similar fees. This could be an annual fee, a late fee or a fee for a foreign transaction – again depending on the card you choose.
While charge cards and credit cards can be very similar, they are also very different in some respects. As an example of this, credit cards typically have a limit on how much you can spend. The amount will depend on which type of card you choose and your personal finances. It’s possible that your credit line could be increased over time but other than that it will remain the same as long as you have the card.
In contrast, there is no predetermined credit limit on charge card. The company that issued the card might set some limits on as to how you use it but this is this not set at the time of approval. If you charge a lot this could be a good thing as it means extra flexibility.
Here comes the most important difference. With a credit card you can pay just the minimm and roll the rest of your balance over to the next month. With a charge card you are required to your full balance every month or be charged a fee. The good news is that this means you’ll never have have a balance on which you’ll be charged interest. A credit card provides more flexibility because you’re only required to pay the minimum to avoid problems with the credit card issuer. This means if you have a month where your a little short on money you could pay the minimum payment required and then pay off your remaining balance the next month – of course with interest.
Your credit score and a charge card
Using a charge card will have a different effect on your credit score then when you use a credit card. The reason for this is that 30% of your score is based on your debt-to-credit ratio. This is the total amount you’ve charged on your cards as compared with your overall credit limit. For example, if you have an overall limit of $5000 and have charged $1000, your debt-to-credit ratio would be 20%. Your credit score could take a hit if this ratio creeps above 30% and especially above 40%.
If you don’t know a lot about credit scores, watch this brief video courtey of National Debt Relief.
Not nearly as much of an impact
As you have read charge cards don’t have a conventional credit limit. As a result FICO, the company whose credit scores are most widely used by lenders, looks at them differently. In fact, in terms of the debt-to-credit ratio, charge cards are totally excluded from your credit utilization. This means the amount you put on a charge card won’t have nearly as severe impact on your FIC) score as the same amount put on a credit card. If you were the type of person that runs up a high balance every month, this would be very convenient. You wouldn’t have to worry constantly that a high balance would damage your credit.
You would build a good credit history
Your FICO score will be affected in other ways by a charge card. A full 35% of your credit score is based on your payment history and length of credit. If you were to get a charge card as soon as you can and then make your payments on time every month, this will help you build a solid credit history and a higher credit score. Of course, if you pay off all your credit cards every month this will have the same beneficial effect. But you would still have to watch your debt-to-credit ratio.
Using those credit cards sensibly
If the idea of having to pay off your balance every month doesn’t appeal to you then a credit card would be a better choice. However, if you want to keep from getting in trouble with a credit card you need to use it sensibly. This means making your payments on time.
Every time you’re late making a payment or miss a payment you will not only accrue late fees and additional finance charges but these will show up on your credit report and can significantly reduce your credit score.
Don’t pay just the minimum
Using a credit card sensibly means paying more than the minimum. When you pay just the minimum each month your balance will grow even if you don’t put any new charges on the card and you will end up much more interest. For instance, if you have a credit card with a balance of $5000 at 19% and a $130 minimum payment it would take you until 2020 to pay off the debt and would cost you a total of $7771 including interest. But if you were to pay $200 a month you would have the debt paid off in two years and nine months at a total of $6415.
Read your agreement carefully
To use a credit card sensibly also means carefully reading your agreement and any other materials the credit card issuer sends you. The agreement you sign will spell out things such as your interest rate, when your payments are due and what will happen if you’re late or miss a payment. Your credit card issuers will also send you “changes in terms” notices around 45 days before they actually make changes to your fees, interest rate or other important things about the card. If you read your agreement and those notices very carefully it help you determine whether or not you want to change your spending habits.
Review your monthly statements.
Mistakes can happen and your identity could be stolen. It is important to carefully review your monthly statement as soon as they arrive. Call your credit card company right away if you spot an error. One of the best things about credit cards is that if your identity is stolen they generally cap your liability of $50. And in some cases they won’t even require you to pay that.
Don’t exceed your credit limit
Remember how we said that credit cards have credit limits. If you did read your agreement carefully you will know what your credit limit is and it’s wise to stay below it. If your balance grows to 70% to 75% of your credit limit, this will be a daner sign on your credit report and could damage your score. If you believe there is some reason why you would need to exceed your credit limit, opt in for overdraft protection. If you don’t do this and a charge would take you over your limit, it could be turned down. Plus, you may be hit with one fee per billing cycle.