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How to use your credit card wisely

16 November 2023Isabelle Coetzee 6 min read
Using credit card near laptop

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All the offers you see on ClearScore are tailored to your credit score and financial circumstances.

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Making smart financial decisions is an essential life skill.  Using your credit card wisely can help you better manage your finances. With so many potential pitfalls lurking around every corner – including high interest rates, complex fees, and credit score impact – navigating the world of credit cards can be tricky. Yet understanding how to manage your finances effectively with a credit card helps maintain good financial health in the long term. Let’s consider the best practices for how to use your credit card wisely.

A credit card is a payment card issued by a financial institution (such as a bank) that allows you to borrow up to a limit to purchase goods or services. It's a great tool when used wisely, but a burden if not managed properly. It’s good to pay attention to your spending habits and make sure you can afford to pay off your balance every month. Keep track of your transactions to ensure you use your credit card for purchases you can afford. You should try to understand the interest rates and fees associated with your credit card to avoid unnecessary charges that can drive up your debt. By using your credit card responsibly, you can take advantage of its benefits without putting your financial stability at risk.

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Credit cards have become a valuable part of our financial lives. They offer convenience and flexibility but can quickly become a financial burden if not used responsibly. Understanding how credit cards work is crucial to using them wisely. When you purchase with your credit card, the bank loans you the money to complete the transaction. You'll then need to pay back the amount, with interest charges and any fees, by the due date. Failure to make timely payments can result in penalties and damage your credit score. Therefore, it's essential to stick to a budget, only use your credit card for necessary expenses, and pay your bills in full each month.

To use credit wisely requires understanding how it works. You’ll also need to watch your spending and plan in advance. It would help if you considered the following when using your credit card.

Understand the terms and conditions of your credit card

When you use a credit card, it's good to understand the terms and conditions that come with it. Each card has specific rules to familiarise yourself with to avoid unexpected fees or charges. Knowing the interest rate, minimum payment amount, and late payment fees can help you make informed decisions when using your credit card. By taking the time to understand the terms and conditions, you can confidently navigate the world of credit cards and make informed financial choices.

  • Interest rate: This determines the cost of borrowing money when you use your credit card balance over time. The interest rate is the fee you pay to borrow money from a bank or credit card company. Your interest rate depends on the credit card company, your credit score, and other financial factors.

  • Minimum payment amount: This amount varies based on your balance and interest rate, but it’s the smallest payment required to keep your account in good standing. While it may be tempting to only make the minimum payment, this will result in higher interest charges and a long payoff period.

  • Late payment fees: This is a penalty that credit card companies impose if you don’t make your minimum payment by the due date. This fee is usually a fixed amount but can also be a percentage of your outstanding balance. One way to avoid late payments is to set up automatic payments or reminders to ensure you never miss a due date. Another way is to create a budget for your credit card payments and other expenses so you are always aware of when your payments are due.

  • Annual fees: This is a fee charged by some credit card companies for the privilege of having their credit card. This fee is generally charged once a year and can vary depending on the credit card type.

Set a budget and stick to it

Setting a budget is one of the most valuable financial tools when managing your finances. However, sticking to that budget can be challenging, especially when you have a credit card. You should understand the impact of your credit card on your budget and financial goals. When you use your credit card, consider setting limits for your spending and paying off your balance on time each month; doing so can avoid mounting debt and interest charges, ultimately helping you stay within your budget. With discipline and a commitment to your budget, using credit cards wisely can be a valuable tool for maintaining financial stability.

Pay the entire balance every month

Using your credit card wisely can be a way to build your credit score and manage your finances efficiently. However, use your credit card wisely to avoid debt and ruining your credit score. One crucial tip with credit cards is to pay the balance each month. It ensures you don't accrue any interest charges and helps you maintain a good credit score.

The benefits of a credit card only shine through when used wisely. To maximise the advantages of your credit card - it’s good to understand how to use your credit card wisely. If you use your credit card wisely, you may enjoy the following benefits.


Having a credit card provides an easy and convenient way to make purchases. Credit cards allow you to make purchases quickly and easily without carrying cash. Additionally, your credit card offers the convenience of online purchases from the comfort of your home.


Many credit cards offer rewards for using them, such as cashback or airline miles. It can be a great way to save money on everyday purchases or earn free travel rewards that can save you money in the long run.

Establishing a credit history

Using a credit card responsibly is one of the best ways to build a good credit history. Making payments on time every month and keeping your balance low will help you build up your credit score, which can open up many doors for getting loans and other financial services.


Credit cards also provide an extra layer of security when making purchases. The law expects credit card companies to protect customer information, so any transactions made with a credit card are much more secure than those made with cash. Additionally, if your credit card is ever lost or stolen, you can contact your credit card company - they’ll help you cancel the card and issue a new one. The credit card company may also be responsible for re-embursing any fraudulent transactions as it’s the creditor’s funds that you’re using. If someone makes fraudulent charges to your account, you may not be liable for those charges as long as they are reported within a certain period after they have occurred. This protection helps ensure that consumers are not held responsible for fraudulent activity on their accounts fraudulent activity on their accounts and helps keep their personal information safe from potential identity thieves.

Emergency funds

A line of credit through your credit card can also give you access to emergency funds if needed. If you need quick cash due to an unexpected expense, having access to a line of credit through your credit card can be very helpful in covering those costs until you can pay them off later on down the road.

Applying for a credit card can seem like a complicated process, but with your preparation and knowledge, it can be a smooth experience. The first step is to research and compare credit cards to find the one that best fits your financial needs and lifestyle. Once you have selected a card, gather all necessary documents and information, such as proof of income and identification. When you fill out the application, ensure all information is accurate and complete. After being approved, it is crucial to read and understand the terms and conditions of the credit card agreement, including interest rates and fees. Once you receive your credit card, use it responsibly and wisely by paying your balance in full each month and avoiding unnecessary charges. By closely managing your credit card usage, you can build your credit history and achieve financial stability.

Isabelle Coetzee Image

Written by Isabelle Coetzee

Freelance Copywriter

Isabelle is a freelance finance writer and journalist in Cape Town. She helps make managing your personal finances calm, clear and easy to understand.