Credit Card Tips We Wish We Knew Before Becoming Credit Card ExpertsUpdated: June 28, 2019

Everyone occasionally wishes they could go back in time and give their younger self some advice. With age comes knowledge, experience and exposure to new ideas, giving you perspectives and priorities that can improve your life immeasurably. Endless research also does the same. That’s why we thought it would be interesting to ask our content team what they wished they knew about credit cards before they joined NextAdvisor and started researching and writing about credit cards. If you’re interested to see what valuable credit card tips our panel of experts have to offer, read on.

Credit card tips from credit card experts

The right credit card can make a big difference

Credit Card Tips We Wish We Knew Before Becoming Credit Card Experts

“I think I had a very fortunate upbringing with regards to credit education. When I was in high school, my mom told me how important having good credit is, and on my first day of college, she dragged me to the closest bank and had me open up a student credit card to start building my credit history. However, one thing I was definitely ignorant about before joining the NextAdvisor team is how much variety there can be with credit cards, and how much of a difference a good card can make.

For years, I used a cash back card from a regional bank and didn’t think about its rewards or benefits at all. After I joined NextAdvisor and started learning about all the different cards offers available, though, I looked up what features my card had to see how it compared. It turns out it only had a flat 1% cash back rate, and a promotional 5% rate on gas and groceries that had long since expired. A lot of the cards I was writing about earned so many more rewards! After some searching, I decided I still wanted the simplicity of a card with a flat cash back rate, so I applied for a Citi Double Cash Card (a NextAdvisor advertiser). Not only did it have twice the cash back rate of my old card, it also came with a much higher credit limit and a better online account interface. I still keep my old card active with a small recurring payment to lower my credit utilization ratio, but I’m much more satisfied with my Double Cash Card now.”

-Gabriel Wood, Writer

0% intro APR cards are not a scam

Credit Card Tips We Wish We Knew Before Becoming Credit Card Experts

“Credit wasn’t a completely new topic to me when I joined NextAdvisor in 2013, as I worked in a bank throughout college and had three credit cards — a balance transfer credit card, a cash back credit card and a store credit card. While I completed a balance transfer once in college to help alleviate the burden of debt I accumulated on a store credit card (I transferred the debt to the balance transfer credit card to avoid the ridiculously high interest rate), I always thought 0% intro APRs on purchases were a scam. I assumed these offers were a creative way for credit card issuers to convince people to get a new credit card and rack up debt – after all, my only experience with credit cards before working at NextAdvisor was debt. It wasn’t until I got engaged in 2014 and starting planning my wedding that I realized the value of a card with a 0% intro APR. If you’ve ever planned a wedding or major event, you’ll know that you end up feeling like a human ATM. Although my now-husband and I were saving for the wedding, we didn’t have all of the funds saved when we had to book our vendors about a year before the actual wedding. When we started putting vendor deposits on a credit card charging 18% interest, I knew there had to be a better solution.

That’s when I started looking into low APR cards, something I’ve learned about at work. I opted to get the Citi Double Cash Card (a NextAdvisor advertiser) because at the time, it had a 0% intro APR on purchases — note that now it offers an 18-month 0% intro APR on balance transfers (with a 3% balance transfer fee, $5 minimum) and no 0% intro APR on purchases — and it earns an effective 2% cash back on all purchases (1% on purchases you make and another 1% after you pay for the purchase), which meant I was earning rewards on our wedding purchases! In the end, the 0% intro APR saved us a ton of money on interest, as we had plenty of time to pay down the wedding purchases before the interest kicked in, and we got around $250 cash back to use toward our honeymoon — it was a win-win! Since then, I’ve added a couple more cards to my wallet, including the Blue Cash Everyday Card from American Express (a NextAdvisor advertiser), all of which have 0% intro APR opportunities. Moral of the story is, low APR cards aren’t a scam and if you need to make a large (or small) purchases that you might not be able to pay off right away, a card with a long 0% intro APR is the perfect solution for you.”

-Julie Myhre-Nunes, Director of Content

Start using credit cards early

Credit Card Tips We Wish We Knew Before Becoming Credit Card Experts

“When I first started at NextAdvisor, I had never owned or applied for a credit card. I was completely clueless to them and believed a number of the common myths that we talk about on our site, such as that credit cards only lead to debt. After a year of really learning, I applied for my first credit card and was approved. Since then, I’ve gone on to apply for a couple more after careful consideration and research, including the Discover it Cash Back and the Blue Cash Everyday Card from American Express. It helps that I have plenty of data to back up my choices, but I know not everyone has the luck of stumbling into a job at a personal finance website like I did five years ago. If I could go back, I wish that I would have known that college is a great time to get started building credit with a credit card. I knew that cards for students existed, but I believed those who warned me that they were a one-way ticket to financial doom. If I had opened a card in college, or even during the years directly afterward when I was starting my life as a young professional, I could have been building my credit and racking up rewards all that time.”

-Jocelyn Baird, Associate Editor

Good credit is a key part of financial health

Credit Card Tips We Wish We Knew Before Becoming Credit Card Experts

“The things I’ve learned that I most wish that I knew before are how your credit is rated and how important credit scores are. That may sound a bit trite or overly broad, so let me be more specific.

When I think about good money management, I naturally think of not spending beyond one’s means. I picture a big ledger with available money recorded in blue ink, income recorded in that shade of green that is universally accepted as good and costs noted in the you-messed-up-here red ink of 7th grade English teachers. So, in my mind, one would prove themselves to be dependable enough for high credit by controlling spending and not incurring debt. That is not the way it works. The best way, in short, to get good credit is to take on debt and pay it off quickly, essentially just responsible payment behavior. I wish that I had used a credit card in college (or even earlier) and just paid off my debt in full each month. That way, I’d have built my credit up early.”

-Matthew Ferguson, Editorial Compliance Associate

Check your credit reports regularly

Credit Card Tips We Wish We Knew Before Becoming Credit Card Experts

“There are many things I wish I could’ve known about credit cards and credit before joining NextAdvisor, but if I had to pick one, I would say that it would’ve been great if I’d known just how important it is to monitor my credit reports. Growing up, I heard about credit scores much more frequently than credit reports, but now that I know that credit scores are pretty much grades of your credit reports, I’d say that credit reports definitely shouldn’t have been taking a backseat. Credit reports serve as records of your credit history, so many decision-makers (e.g., lenders, insurers and rental property owners) look at them to gauge your financial reliability before they decide whether or not they’re going to approve your loan, extend you a nice interest rate or rent an apartment to you. Long story short, when it comes to these major decisions, the way that your credit reports look can help you or hurt you.

That’s why it’s so important to check all three of your credit reports to make sure they’re as great and as accurate as they can be. Keeping an eye out to catch reporting errors and signs of fraudulent activity (something to pay special attention to – especially since there’s been a rise in data breaches and identity theft) in their early stages can do wonders. Though it may seem like a ton of work, it’s pretty easy to check your credit reports. You’re allowed to receive three free credit reports every 12 months through, and if you’re too busy to look at them yourself, you can consider subscribing to a credit monitoring service that can update you when changes are made to your reports or new accounts or inquiries occur.”

-Carissa Ratanaphanyarat, Writer

Credit reporting errors and identity theft can happen to anyone

Credit Card Tips We Wish We Knew Before Becoming Credit Card Experts

“One of the most interesting and important things I’ve learned is the extent to which both credit report errors and identity theft occurs. My family taught me a lot about the importance of building credit, but no one really told me much about credit report inaccuracies because it was something we never witnessed. I knew identity theft happened and that reviewing one’s credit reports was oft-given advice, but until I began writing stories about data breaches, I didn’t actually understand just how common credit report errors were. Building credit takes diligence but, as I’ve learned, protecting your identity and reviewing your credit reports takes just as much diligence.”

-Michael Osakwe, Senior Writer

It’s impossible to know everything when it comes to personal finance, but hopefully our writers’ credit card tips will keep you from making the same mistakes they did. For even more credit card advice, check out our credit cards blog.

Disclaimer: This content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuer. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer. This content was accurate at the time of this post, but card terms and conditions may change at any time. This site may be compensated through the credit card issuer Affiliate Program.