Mastering Your First Credit Card
Mastering Your First Credit Card

Launch the start of your credit history confidently with these seven tips.


Credit cards are a great way to begin establishing a solid credit history, which you’ll need for future milestones, like getting a loan for your dream house or car.


Mismanagement of lines of credit, however, can make fulfilling these desires more difficult. Here’s how to start your credit history off on the right foot with your first credit card.

Apply for Credit Cards Geared Toward Newcomers

The Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure Act of 2009 has put safety measures in place for those under 21 looking to acquire credit. Now either a cosigner or verifiable income to repay the debt is required—which lessens the likelihood that you’ll fall victim to predatory credit offers and helps to keep your credit limits reasonable for your income.


Some credit card companies offer cards suited to students and credit newcomers. It can also be easier to get approved for department store and gas station cards.


Beware, though, because they may have high interest rates. This is why it’s critical to only charge what you can pay off within a billing cycle.

Pay Your Full Balance Each Month

Only make purchases that you can pay off monthly to avoid having to pay interest on balances carried to the next month. This also gives you assurance that you’ll have the cash flow and a credit line available in case of emergencies. The lack of recurring balances looks great on your credit report, too.

Consider Secured Credit Cards

Secured cards may be a safer option for people with no credit history or limited credit history. A cash deposit is required, and approval is more likely. A secured card provides an opportunity to make payments on time and practice safe spending habits before getting an unsecured credit card.

Get a Credit Limit That’s Appropriate for Your Budget

Just because you have a high credit limit on your card doesn’t mean you should use it all. Although it’s tempting to max out that brand-new card on a quick splurge, consider saving up for that special treat instead. You’ll want to keep as much credit available as possible in case of an emergency.

Understand How Purchases Affect Your Credit Score

Based on how the credit bureaus determine credit scores, you’ll be penalized if you continue to rack up debt and only make minimum payments—even if they’re on time. Inquiries from other creditors may also bring your score down.

Don’t Fall for the Points or Limited-time, No-interest Game

Companies offer these incentives to encourage you to use your credit card often. Unless you are confident that you can pay your balance in full each month, don’t make unnecessary charges just for the rewards. The interest you’ll pay over time could cost more than that initial reward.

Take Advantage of Card Perks

Some card memberships include useful benefits like online banking, free credit monitoring/reports, no annual or foreign transaction fees, rewards, and even safety features to put a freeze on your account if your card gets lost or stolen. These tools can help you monitor and manage your credit.