Getting a new credit card can be exciting. Maybe you’re looking forward to receiving a large sign-up bonus, or perhaps you’re eager to take advantage of certain rewards that your card offers. But it’s not always as simple as activating a new card and starting to spend.
If you’re new to credit cards, or perhaps have upgraded to one that offers better rewards and benefits, taking a little bit of time to make sure that everything is properly set up can help you avoid costly mistakes and may even help you save some money.
Here are three things to do when you get a brand new credit card, and one that you can skip.
1. Set up mobile banking
Once you receive your new card, download your card issuer’s app. These days, you can manage nearly every aspect of your credit card with your smartphone, from checking your credit score to reviewing your statement to even freezing or canceling your card if you misplace it.
Additionally, most credit card providers allow you to set up push notifications so that you can get an alert any time your card is used, which can be handy for keeping an eye on where your money is going or seeing if there’s any fraud detected on your account.
2. Enroll in autopay
The most important thing you can do with a credit card is pay it off on time and in full each month, which is why it’s important to enroll in autopay. This makes sure you never miss a payment and helps you build a strong credit score and avoid accruing costly interest on your spending.
“Even just a single late payment can do a lot of damage to your credit,” Matt Schulz, a credit card expert at LendingTree, tells CNBC Make It. “Especially if you are somebody who is just getting started with credit, it’s really important to pay every month.”
Whether you are diligent in always paying off your entire balance or prefer to pay the minimum, automatic payments can be a lifesaver. Even the most diligent people can forget to pay their bills, and undoing the damage that a missed payment can cause could take months.
“[If you don’t pay your full balance], maybe set it up to pay $200, just so you know that a payment will be made if you forget or if something happens,” Schulz says.
3. Activate your rewards
While many credit cards will automatically give customers the rewards they advertise, such as 2x points back at supermarkets or 1% cash back on purchases, others require you to enroll in specific rewards if you want to take advantage of them.
The American Express Gold Card offers a $10 monthly credit on Seamless spending, but only to users who go onto their app or site and activate the reward, for example. If they don’t, American Express won’t automatically apply it to their Seamless purchases.
“For banks, part of their calculation when they’re creating the card is the understanding that not everybody is going to take advantage of everything that gets offered,” Schulz says. “Essentially, by making people take an extra step or two to sign up for a certain reward, it makes it to where a bank might be able to give a little more reward to folks who were willing to work for it without giving it to everybody.”
Before you start spending on a new card, make sure that you’ve taken a look at the benefits it offers to ensure that you are getting the most value out of each one.
Don’t worry about signing your card
Even though most credit cards still come with a strip on the back where you are meant to sign your name, Schulz says that it’s not necessary. In the past, the signature on the back of your credit card was used by cashiers to check for fraud by comparing it to the signature on a receipt. But those days are largely gone, he says.
“I don’t remember the last time someone asked to look at the back of my card,” he says. “You don’t need to sign as much anymore because the banks’ fraud detection tools and algorithms have become smart enough to where the signature is really just an archaic, outdated way to guard against fraud.”
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