10 Advantages of Credit Cards

By Jackie Lam · May 17, 2024 · 9 minute read

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10 Advantages of Credit Cards

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.

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.

Recommended: Tips for Using a Credit Card Responsibly

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 75,000 reward points if you spend $4,000 within the first three 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 one cent for every dollar spent. You can then redeem those points to put towards travel, gift cards, merchandise, charitable donations, or statement credits.

4. Safety

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.

6. Insurance

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, as are Discover cards; American Express cards are accepted in over 190 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.

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 new $2,000 laptop. But if you have a credit line of $3,000 (and know you have a 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 22.8%, according to the Federal Reserve.

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. You may want to avoid as many credit card fees as possible.

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. is currently just under $30,000. So, to maintain a 30% credit utilization ratio, you’d need to keep your balances below $10,000.

When Not to Use a Credit Card

If you’re spending more than you can afford to pay back (or 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.

Recommended: Does Applying For a Credit Card Hurt Your Credit Score

The Takeaway

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.

Whether you're looking to build credit, apply for a new credit card, or save money with the cards you have, it's important to understand the options that are best for you. Learn more about credit cards by exploring this credit card guide.


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 regularly, storing your cards safely, keeping your passwords protected, and being vigilant when using your credit card. You can also set security alerts for transactions over a certain dollar amount or for in-person, online, or phone purchases. If you suspect fraudulent activity, block your card, 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. 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.

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 build 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

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