Trying a new credit card is like driving a new car for the first time: In the same way, you can adjust the seat and mirrors, locate the emergency brake or swirl around with the air conditioning buttons you want to fine – set the settings for your new card before you start to use. Here is a checklist of things to do when getting a new credit card.
Activate your card
That seems obvious, does it? Well, not for everyone: I made a mistake by tearing up the envelope for a new card, running off to buy something, and having my card rejected right at the counter. It used to be more hassle to activate cards over the phone with a customer service representative, but the process is automated now and only takes a few minutes by phone or by registering online (there must be a URL on the sticker or in the letter that came with the credit card ).
Destroy your old card when the new card is activated
If your new card replaces an old card, you might as well cut up the old credit card right after the new card has been activated to avoid identity theft. Be sure to cut up the card, including the magnetic strip and the chip, as thieves can steal information from both.
Create mobile bank
As long as you follow your lender’s instructions on how to download their app, it should be as secure as going through their site in a browser. The biggest benefit of mobile apps is the convenience (I often pay for my credit card right after a purchase so I don’t forget it), but the added security of push notifications that can tell you when your card is being used without your permission is also great. In addition, you will probably want to check your account balance more regularly.
Call customer service to confirm the card’s bonus terms and adjust your billing cycle
Many cards offer a refund bonus for spending a certain amount within a few months. The problem with this is that the bank’s bonus announcements are not always explicitly clear once you have received the card. When I signed up for a Bank of America Cash Rewards card, there was nothing on the page or app that said, “Hey, the bonus is active, you have so much to spend and so many days to do it.” Plus, once you reach the goal, the cash reward is often delayed, which can make you a little paranoid because you somehow missed the spending goal.
Therefore, contact a customer service representative before spending thousands of dollars chasing a bonus to confirm the bonus amount, the expense target, and the date the offer actually started (this must be the activation date, but this is not always the case).
Finally, you may want to adjust the billing cycle for a date that works best for you. One trick that helps your credit score is to Confirm your credit card end date, which is when your balance is reported to the credit bureaus. By knowing this date, you can time your payments so that the reported balance is at the lowest possible total amount (for me, it is after payday in the middle of the month). This way, you spend as little debt as possible, which is a good thing since the amount of credit available to you do not Use accounts for 30% of your credit score.
Create automatic payments
The downside of credit cards is that they come with ridiculously late fines and interest rates, so you will want to make uniform payments on time on any outstanding balance that you may owe (plus again, it helps with your credit score to do so).
Since it is easy to forget and miss a payment, you need to create automatic payments through your checking account, either in the bank’s app or its website. You can even set these payments to pay the full balance each month – whatever it may be at that time. The only risk with automated payments is cash requirements, so you will still have to stay on top of your account balance each month.
Activate your rewards
Cash back cards have often increased the rewards based on various expense categories, such as 3% cash back for online shopping versus 1% for all other expenses. Since reward cards often come with multiple categories that have differentiated rewards, you will want to log in to your card’s app or website and adjust these categories to match your spending habits. Your card may also have other perks like credit credits or short-term coupons that need to be activated before you can claim them (look for a “rewards” tab in your lender’s app or page).