Last night as I was drifting off to sleep, my phone beeped, indicating I had received an email. I grogilly looked to see who it was from, and I’m glad I did.
Mint.com was alerting me that my credit card had just posted interest on my account.
Excuse me ?? Posting interest? I never carry a balance! So all these thoughts were running through my head… Did my payment not go through? Did I not pay in full? Did I leave the oven on again…?
I immediately called the number on the back of my card and explained to Jagadev (hey at least he didn’t lie and say his name was Mike!) what was going on. He said, “Ok it’s fixed” and pitched me a new credit card. Thanks bud, but was it a mistake or not?? (Spoiler: it was a mistake)
I consider myself to be somewhat financially knowledgeable, perhaps it was those four years of studying economics in college…? I thought I’d pass on my most basic tips for dealing with finances/banks/credit to you!
1) Frequently check your online statements:
I log on to my bank account online every few days to check the activity and balances. My credit cards are through the same bank so I can see it all at one glance. If you wait weeks to check your account, you can miss payments, mistakes, or other issues on your account
2) Never have a balance on your credit card
Credit card interest rates are very very high (as in 20%)! Leaving even a 100 dollar balance for a month on your card will result in the balance being $120 the next month. Don’t pay your hard earned cash to the credit card companies! Strive to be the customer they hate- the one who never holds a balance and pays in full every month on time! This way- the credit card is like a free loan. If you don’t pay in full, it is easy to accumulate debt over time, and hard to pay it off.
3) Call your bank with questions
If you have a question about your balance or how your card or account works, call your bank! They are there to help you, and the better you understand your situation, the more likely you are to be successful
4) The first time you get a bank fee, call the bank
The first time you get a bank fee, like a overdraft fee, call the bank and politely ask them to remove it as a courtesy. This works 95% of the time if you haven’t asked the same bank before. They let you go with a free pass because they want to provide good customer service, so you can get your $35 dollars back with hardly any effort. Just don’t try this often, I find it only works the first time as a courtesy (perhaps more if you are a loyal customer with them for a very long time)
5) Don’t open too many credit cards
It can be tempting, but having too many credit cards is not only too tempting, but they are hard to keep track of and can negatively affect your credit score. If you apply for several cards in a year, your credit score is negatively affected. Personally, I have two cards and find it to be the perfect amount for me right now.
6) Get organized!
Keep a file, notebook, word document on your computer…anything! Just get organized. Remind yourself when payments are due for credit cards, bills, rent etc. I personally use mint.com. I think it is a great tool for budgeting, tracking spending, and thanks to their email I was able to call Visa ASAP to get the charges fixed.
Debt and financial problems are hard to bounce back from, in part because of the lovely concept of interest on debts and the glaring credit score that will follow you forever. Getting a hold on your finances is one of the most difficult things, but it is also very rewarding. Less money spent paying off interest means more money for shoe shopping right???
What are your best tips/strategies for dealing with your finances?