Using a Credit Card
It's no secret that many Americans are drowning in credit card debt. It is very easy to impulse shop and overspend if you don't know how to use credit cards wisely. Smart use of credit cards can actually improve your credit. But as experience has shown, it is not difficult to quickly become overwhelmed with debt due to out-of-control spending.
No matter what you use your credit card for; the law gives you certain rights and responsibilities. Following is what you need to know:
- Make prompt payments. You can be charged late fees and additional finances charges if you are delinquent with your payments.
- Check for errors on your monthly statements. Credit card issuers are required to give you full disclosure about any and all fees you may be charged and the methods used to calculate those fees. If you find an error, notify your credit card company immediately and file a dispute. You are not required to pay the disputed amount until a final decision is reached either way, but you are responsible for any other charges and fees.
- Notify your card issuers as soon as possible if your card is lost or stolen. If you report this before your card is illegally used, you are not liable for any charges. If the stolen card has already been used, you are only liable for up to $50. If the thief uses your credit card number and not the actual card, you are not liable for any unauthorized purchases.
- You have the right to dispute a charge for goods or services which you find unsatisfactory, as long as you have tried to deal with the seller directly to resolve the problem but have been unsuccessful. Contact your credit card company and explain the situation.
Using a credit card wisely also means using it safely. Protect yourself from problems by following these tips:
- When you go out, only carry the credit cards you think you will use. In the event your wallet or purse is stolen, it lessens the loss and saves you from having to contact every card issuer you have.
- Never give your card to someone else.
- Don't disclose your account number online or over the telephone unless you are certain you are dealing with a reputable company.
- Never sign a blank charge slip. Draw lines through any blank spaces so that the final amount cannot be changed.
- Never write your account number where someone can see it.
- Keep your receipts so that you can verify them against your monthly statement.
- Write down all of you credit card numbers along with expiration dates and telephone numbers in case of loss or theft. Keep this list in a safe place separate from your credit cards.