Using a credit card for the first time
Jumping into the world of using credit cards may seem potentially intimidating at first, but using them responsibly could have its benefits, too. Knowing how to use a credit card for the first time may help you confidently begin your credit card journey.
Ways to use your credit card
There are a few options you should know about when it comes to how to use a credit card for beginners. There are three main ways to make purchases — in-person, online or with cash advances.
- In-person: Using a credit card in person generally doesn't require a personal identification number (PIN). Depending on your card and issuer, you may be able to swipe the magnetic strip on the back of the card, insert your chip or tap your card against the machine to pay.
- Online: When you make a purchase online with your credit card, you will likely have to enter personal information along with your credit card number, security code and expiration date. This information may include your name, billing address, shipping address (if it's different from billing) and email.
- Cash advances: Not all credit cards allow you to make cash advances, but if yours does, there are generally three ways to do it. You can potentially use your physical card at an ATM, use a convenience check provided by your issuer, or visit a local bank branch to withdraw money. If you choose to visit a local branch, it's helpful to make sure in-person cash withdrawals for credit card customers are something they do first so that not that much time is wasted in a queue, and remember to bring identification.
Developing good habits
Once you know how to use your first credit card, you may want to focus on setting good habits. Responsible use of credit cards may help build your credit, while irresponsible use may damage it. Some tips you may want to consider include:
- Start small: As you get used to using your credit card, you may want to stick to smaller, more manageable purchases, such as at grocery stores or gas stations.
- Pay off the balance: Try not to spend more than you can afford to pay off in full at the end of each billing cycle, or ensure that you can make at least the minimum payment at the end of each month..
- Autopay: Many card issuers will allow you to set up autopay for your credit card bill. This may help you avoid late fees or penalties by ensuring your payment always goes out on time..
- Check your score: Keep up-to-date on any changes to your credit score by checking it regularly. Also, keep an eye on your credit report because, while incorrect reporting is rare, it can occur. Using a tool like Chase Credit Journey® gives you access to your Experian credit report, identity monitoring services and your free credit score to help you stay on top of the factors affecting your score..
How does a billing cycle work?
Billing cycles for credit cards generally last for about a month, or in other words, the time between closing dates usually lasting about 28-31 days. All your transactions during that period will be added up and added to any remaining balance from the previous billing cycle. Credit card bills are typically due on the same day each month, or the closest business day if it falls on a weekend or holiday.
When will I get my first credit card statement?
When you get your first credit card statement may vary depending on your card, but generally, your first billing cycle begins as soon as you open your new account. That means you can expect your first statement 28-31 days after opening your account, once the billing cycle closes. If you can't find your statement date on your documentation from your issuer, you can call the customer service line to find out.
How can I check my credit card balance?
There are three main ways to check your credit card balance.
- Mobile banking: If your issuer offers mobile banking, you can log in to their website or app to find your balance.
- Paper statements: If you receive paper statements in the mail, you can also check those — however, note that you will have to wait for your billing cycle to close in order to receive the direct mail whereas you can see your current balance updated in real time on online banking.
- On the phone: If you'd prefer personal help, you may call the customer service number on the back of your card and ask what your current balance is.
When used responsibly, you may find credit cards to be a useful tool for building your credit score and working toward other financial goals. To achieve this, there are some tips you may want to learn to better know how to use a credit card for the first time. It also helps to try not to carry a balance, keep an eye on your card statements and credit report and make sure you're paying your bill on time.