You may already know that credit cards offer an easy and convenient way to make purchases, but that’s just one of many potential credit card benefits. From rewards offerings like cash back, travel points, and one-time bonuses, to financial benefits like payment security, the opportunity to build credit, and a grace period, there are a number of reasons to keep a credit card in your wallet.
Read on to learn 10 advantages of using a credit card, as well as some tips to ensure you use your card responsibly.
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1. Cash Back
Many credit cards allow you to earn cash back on everyday purchases, such as gas or groceries, a reward introduced long ago in the history of credit cards. Essentially, with cash back, you get a small amount back in cash that’s a percentage of how much you spent.
With cash-back cards, you can usually put any cash you receive towards your credit card balance, or you can opt to receive the money through a direct deposit to your bank account, as a check or gift card, or put it towards other purchases.
2. One-Time Bonuses
Credit cards sometimes will offer a one-time, introductory bonus that allows you to earn enhanced rewards as long as you spend a certain amount on your card within the first months your account is open. For instance, you might be able to earn a bonus of 100,000 reward points if you spend $6,000 within the first six months of opening your card. These rewards can be a great way to get something extra out of opening a new credit card.
3. Reward Points
Reward points are similar to cash-back rewards in that they offer an incentive for you to use your card. You’ll earn points for every dollar you spend on your card, such as 1 cent for every dollar spent. You can then redeem those points to put towards travel, gift cards, merchandise, charitable donations, or statement credits.
Another one of the many perks of how credit cards work is the built-in security and safety features they offer. Many major credit card issuers offer a zero-liability policy for fraud, meaning you won’t be responsible if any fraudulent purchases are charged to your account. Other credit card safety features include encryption and chip-and-pin technology, which keeps your account information safe when using your card for in-store transactions. Plus, many credit cards offer fraud and credit monitoring services to allow you to easily keep tabs on your account.
Compared to debit cards, credit card security tends to be much more robust and the protections against fraud are more consumer-friendly.
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5. Grace Period
This usually isn’t the first advantage of a credit card that comes to mind, but it’s a major one and a key part of what a credit card is. A credit card’s grace period between when your billing period ends and when your payment is due. During this grace period, no interest accrues. So if you are able to pay your balance in full during the grace period, you won’t owe any interest.
Many credit cards come with insurance. For instance, travel credit cards might come with travel insurance, trip cancellation insurance, trip delay insurance, or rental car collision insurance. Cards may also offer price protection, extended warranties, purchase protection, or phone protection.
7. Universal Acceptance
Credit cards are pretty much accepted anywhere, and you can use one whether you’re paying a bill via snail mail or making a purchase in store, online, or over the phone. A credit card can be used to pay for most things, including paying taxes with a credit card.
Breaking it down by credit card network, Visa and Mastercard are accepted in over 200 countries, American Express cards are accepted in over 160 countries, and Discover cards are accepted in over 185 countries. This comes in handy when you’re traveling and don’t want to fret about converting your U.S. dollars into foreign currency.
If you’re running a business, accepting credit card payments can help prevent fraudulent activity, such as someone trying to pay with counterfeit bills. It can also make it easier to keep track of transactions and purchases related to your business.
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8. Building Credit
Another major perk of using a credit card is that it can help you build credit. Credit card issuers report your activity to the three main credit card bureaus — Transunion, Equifax, and Experian — which is then used to calculate your credit score.
If you maintain a continuous streak of on-time payments, it will help with your payment history, which makes up 35% of your credit score. Plus, the longer you keep a credit card open, the more it helps with your length of credit, which is 15% of your score. A credit card can also help you build credit because it helps with your credit mix, which makes up 10% of your score.
9. Increased Purchasing Power
Having a credit card can increase your purchasing power, as you’ll have access to a line of credit that can make it easier to buy big-ticket items. For instance, if you’re down to $1,000 in the bank, you won’t be able to purchase that $2,000 laptop. But if you have a credit line of $3,000 (and know you have a big paycheck en route), you can purchase that laptop you’ve been wanting when it’s on sale and then pay it off when the funds hit your bank account.
Take this credit card advantage with a grain of salt though — using your credit card to cover more than you can immediately afford to pay off can lead you to get into credit card debt.
10. Keeping Vendors Honest
Unscrupulous behavior from vendors does happen, unfortunately. If you pay a vendor through another means, such as cash, Venmo, or by writing a check, the vendor will have an easier time getting away with not providing the goods or services they promised.
But if you pay a vendor using a credit card, the credit card issuer has an incentive to get to the bottom of the issue and prevent fraud. And if you dispute a credit card charge, the issuer will withhold funds from the vendor. In turn, the transaction won’t go through, and you may be able to get your money back.
What to Look for in a Credit Card
Before applying for a credit card, do some comparison shopping first. Think about what kind of credit card you might need. Depending on your needs, preferences, and lifestyle, a travel credit card or cash-back card might be the best fit for you. Or, if you’re after a card with a low APR and minimal fees, a solid everyday card might be a better fit. If you’re working to rebuild your credit, you might consider a secured card.
Besides any credit card perks, look at the card’s interest rate. Your annual percentage rate (APR) will vary depending on your creditworthiness and the type of card you’re applying for (top rewards cards tend to have higher APRs than more basic cards). In general, however, a good APR for a credit card is one that’s below the current average credit card interest rate, which is 14.56% as of May 2022.
Additionally, it’s important to check whether a card has an annual fee. If it does, look at its perks and how much you anticipate putting on the card in a given year to see if that fee is worth it. Also take into consideration any other fees a credit card may charge, such as late payment fees, foreign transaction fees, and balance transfer fees.
Using a Credit Card Responsibly
To use a credit card responsibly, it’s crucial to make on-time payments of at least the minimum payment due each billing cycle. This ties in with not spending more than you can afford to pay back, or running up a high balance on multiple cards, both of which could lead you into credit card debt.
Another rule of thumb to use your credit card responsibly is to keep your credit utilization ratio — the total amount you owe divided by your total available credit — under 30%. The average credit card limit in the U.S. in 2020 was $30,365, according to data published by the credit bureau Experian. So, to maintain a 30% credit utilization ratio, you’d need to keep your balances below $9,109.50.
When Not to Use a Credit Card
If you’re spending more than you can afford to pay back, or can pay back within a reasonable amount of time, then it’s best to avoid using a credit card. The advantages of a credit card aren’t worth it if using credit cards is causing you to get into debt.
You’ll rack up interest charges on any remaining balances each month, and those costs can start to add up fast. While there are options like credit card debt forgiveness, they aren’t necessarily easy to get, and you can damage your credit score in the process.
Apply for a Sofi Credit Card Online and Earn 2% Cash Back
As you can see, there are a number of potential advantages of credit cards, from rewards to payment security to an interest-free grace period. Enjoying credit card benefits requires using your credit card responsibly though. If you’re racking up more charges than you can afford to pay back, the interest and other implications could quickly outweigh the credit card advantages.
If you are in the market for a new credit card, the SoFi credit card is worth considering given the perks it offers. SoFi cardholders earn 2% unlimited cash back when redeemed to save, invest, or pay down eligible SoFi debt. Cardholders earn 1% cash back when redeemed for a statement credit.1
The SoFi Credit Card offers unlimited 2% cash back on all eligible purchases. There are no spending categories or reward caps to worry about.1
How secure are credit cards?
Credit cards come with many security features, such as pin-and-chip technology, fraud and credit monitoring, and zero-liability fraud protection. Plus, there are usually features like two-factor authentication or biometrics at login, and you can temporarily freeze your credit card if you suspect fraudulent activity.
How can I protect myself from credit card fraud?
You can protect yourself from credit card fraud by reviewing your credit card statement each billing, storing your cards safely in your wallet or purse, keeping your passwords protected, and being vigilant when using your credit card. You can also set security alerts whenever there’s a transaction that’s over a certain dollar amount, or for in-person, online, or over-the-phone purchases. If you suspect fraudulent activity, block your card from further usage and report the suspicious activity immediately.
Do credit cards allow you to save more?
Credit cards usually enable you to spend more. However, if used smartly and responsibly, they can help you save through credit card rewards and other advantages, such as insurance and discounts. For a credit card to help you save, however, you’ll want to stay on top of payments and ideally pay your balance in full. Otherwise, the interest charges might outweigh any perks of credit cards.
Should I use a credit card if I have a poor credit score?
If you have a poor credit score, it could be a good idea to use a credit card to rebuild your score — as long as you can use it responsibly and manage on-time payments. Keep in mind that those with poor scores likely won’t get approved for the cards with the most competitive rewards, and they may face a higher APR and fees.
Photo credit: iStock/Suphansa Subruayying
Disclaimer: Many factors affect your credit scores and the interest rates you may receive. SoFi is not a Credit Repair Organization as defined under federal or state law, including the Credit Repair Organizations Act. SoFi does not provide “credit repair” services or advice or assistance regarding “rebuilding” or “improving” your credit record, credit history, or credit rating. For details, see the FTC’s website .
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Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.
The SoFi Credit Card is issued by SoFi Bank, N.A. pursuant to license by Mastercard® International Incorporated and can be used everywhere Mastercard is accepted. Mastercard is a registered trademark, and the circles design is a trademark of Mastercard International Incorporated.
1See Rewards Details at SoFi.com/card/rewards.
1 When you elect to redeem rewards points as cash deposited into your SoFi Checking and Savings account, as a statement credit to a SoFi Credit Card account, as fractional shares into your SoFi Invest account, or as a payment toward your SoFi Personal Loan or Student Loan Refinance, your rewards points will redeem at a rate of 1 cent per point. For more details please visit the Rewards page. Brokerage and Active investing products offered through SoFi Securities LLC, member FINRA/SIPC. SoFi Securities LLC is an affiliate of SoFi Bank, N.A.