What Happens If You Don’t Use Your Credit Card?

What Happens If You Don’t Use Your Credit Card?

There may come a time when you end up not using one of your credit cards anymore. This can happen because you’ve amassed multiple cards and now have one that offers better rewards, or maybe you have a retail card for a store you no longer frequent. Whatever the reason, it’s valid to wonder what happens if you don’t use your credit card.

In many cases, nothing will happen. However, there may be some instances where not using a credit card will carry consequences. That’s why it’s important to know what happens if you don’t use a credit card.

Recommended: Can You Buy Crypto With a Credit Card

Is It Bad to Have a Credit Card and Not Use It?

Typically, no, it’s not bad to have a credit card that you don’t use regularly. Not using a credit card for a few months is usually not that big of a deal as long as you keep making any necessary payments on any credit card charges you’ve made. However, there may be some unintended consequences of not using a credit card for a longer period of time.

Recommended: What is a Charge Card

What Happens If You Don’t Use Your Credit Card?

If you’re wondering, ‘Is it bad to not use a credit card?,’ here’s a look at some of the potential consequences.

You Might Overlook Fraudulent Charges and Activities

If you don’t use your credit card, you may end up missing transactions that you otherwise would have noticed on your credit card statement. For instance, if your credit card information were to get stolen and used for unauthorized purchases, you might not spot that activity if you’ve stopped checking your statements. The longer the issue continues, the more damage that can be done, given what a credit card is.

You Might Miss Payments

Another possible consequence of an unused credit card that you’re not checking in on regularly is missed payments. If you need to pay an annual fee for the card, for instance, you could forget that you’ll be charged if you’re not often using the card. Missing a payment can have severe financial consequences, which is why making on-time payments is one of the cardinal credit card rules.

Recommended: When Are Credit Card Payments Due

Your Card Issuer May Close Your Account

If you don’t use a credit card for a long period of time — say, at least a year — your issuer may close your credit card. What’s more, credit card issuers don’t have to give you notice when they’re about to close your credit card, so you may only find out when you go to use it.

Exactly what counts as inactivity and the length of time before an account closes will be up to each credit card issuer. If you’re concerned about your card being closed due to inactivity, contact your issuer to find out when they may close your account.

Your Credit Score May Go Down

If your credit card issuer closes your credit card, your credit score could be negatively affected. This is due to a couple different reasons.

For one, the closure of your account will cause your overall credit limit to go down. This could drive up your credit utilization ratio — the percentage of the overall amount you use across the credit limit of your credit cards — which accounts for 30% of your credit score. The higher this ratio, the lower your score can go because creditors tend to take this as a sign you may have issues with handling debt. If the closed credit card had a high credit limit, it could affect your credit utilization even more.

Secondly, the closure of your credit card could impact the length of your credit history, which accounts for 15% of your credit score. Closing a credit card you’ve had for a while could result in a negative impact on your score, marking another way that not using a credit card can hurt your credit score.

Recommended: What is the Average Credit Card Limit

You May Lose Your Rewards

Depending on your credit card, any unused rewards will expire after a certain period of time. What’s more, if your issuer ends up closing your credit card due to inactivity, any rewards you’ve earned on your card up to that point could be lost.

How Long Can You Go Without Using a Credit Card?

How long you can go without using a credit card will depend on your issuer. Some may close your credit card after six months of inactivity, whereas others may only close the card after a year of inactivity or more.

Again, it’s important to check your credit card’s terms and conditions to learn more about how a credit card works. Or, you can contact your issuer to find out what can happen if you don’t use your credit card for a while.

Closing a Credit Card You Don’t Use: What to Know

If you have a credit card you no longer want to use, it might make sense to close it. While the previously mentioned consequences may happen — such as losing your rewards and facing impacts to your credit score — it is still possible to close a card.

Before doing so, determine whether your credit card has a high credit limit and consider how long you’ve had the card. Closing a credit card you’ve had for a while could have a negative impact on your score. Same goes for a credit card with a high limit, since it could significantly raise your credit utilization.

If neither of the above are of concern, then think carefully about whether you’ll likely use the card again in the future. Does this card not help you earn rewards, whereas other ones you own do? Or is this a secured credit card and you can now qualify for an unsecured card?

If there’s no potential major financial impact to closing the card, and you’re sure you won’t use it anymore, then you might consider moving forward with closing it.

Does Not Using a Credit Card Hurt Your Credit Score?

The effect that not using a credit card will have on your credit score depends on whether the issuer closes your account. If the credit card is still open and you’re otherwise responsible for credit that you do use, like making consistent on-time payments, then your credit score most likely won’t be affected.

Keeping Your Cards Active Without Hurting Your Credit Score

Keeping a credit card active is as simple as using the card every few months for regular, small purchases. You might consider using the card to cover a subscription to a streaming service, for example. Or, you could use it to cover another monthly bill.

If you’re worried about checking in frequently enough, you might set up autopay for that credit card. That way, you’ll ensure you’re paying on time.

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

The Takeaway

It’s normal to not use a credit card if you have other ones that are a better fit. But before closing the card or letting it get shut down due to inactivity, consider making small purchases on it to keep it active. Otherwise, you’ll want to determine whether your credit score can handle potentially taking a dip.

Looking for a credit card with perks you won’t want to lose? Consider the SoFi credit card, where you can earn cash-back rewards on all qualifying purchases, and pay no foreign transaction fees. See what other benefits the card offers and apply for a credit card today with SoFi.

Learn more today about the SoFi credit card!

FAQ

Will I be charged if I don’t use my credit card?

If your credit card typically charges an annual fee, that fee will still apply even if you don’t use your credit card.

What happens if I don’t use my credit card for a year?

Some credit card issuers may close your credit card, even without your knowledge, due to inactivity. This may occur if you don’t use your card for a year or more, though the exact length of time will vary depending on the issuer.

Should I get rid of my credit card if I don’t use it?

You can get rid of your credit card, but know that it may affect your credit score. It’s a good idea to research the potential consequences of closing a credit card before actually doing so.

Do unused credit cards affect your credit score?

Unused credit cards may affect your credit score if you or your credit card issuer closes the account. The account closure could result in an increased credit utilization ratio since your overall credit limit will go down across all of your cards. Plus, if the close credit card is one of your oldest ones, it could diminish the length of your credit history, therefore affecting your score.


Photo credit: iStock/kohei_hara

1See Rewards Details at SoFi.com/card/rewards.

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.

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 .

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.

SoFi cardholders earn 2% unlimited cash back rewards when redeemed to save, invest, a statement credit, or pay down eligible SoFi debt.

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Getting a High-Limit Credit Card: How It Works

Getting a High-Limit Credit Card: How It Works

Having a high credit limit can be a good idea for a variety of reasons. First of all, if your credit limit is too low, it may make it hard to use your card for your regular monthly expenses. Having a high credit limit can positively impact your credit score as well. You’ll just make sure that having a credit card with a high limit doesn’t influence you to spend more than your budget allows.

Before you move forward with securing a high-limit credit card, you’ll want to know your options for how to get a high-limit credit card. If you’re worried about securing the highest credit card limit possible, there are a couple factors you’ll want to take into account, too.

What Is a High-Limit Credit Card?

For reference, the average credit card limit for Americans was $30,365 in 2020, according to data from the credit bureau Experian. So if you have a credit card with a limit above that average, you may consider that to be a high-limit credit card.

In general, however, there isn’t a specific dollar amount that makes a credit card a “high-limit” credit card. What’s considered a high credit card spending limit for some people may not be a high limit for others with a different financial situation. Keep in mind that higher credit limits generally require excellent credit to qualify for, meaning a score of 800 and up.

How Can a Higher Credit Limit Help You?

There are two ways that having a credit card with a higher credit limit can help your financial situation.

First, increasing your credit card limit can make it easier to manage your monthly finances. If your credit limit is at or below the amount of your average monthly expenses, you may find it difficult to manage your budget without having to make additional credit card payments.

Second, having a higher credit limit will decrease your credit utilization rate, which can have a positive impact on your credit score. Your credit utilization rate looks at how much of your available credit you’re using, and the less you’re using, the better it is for your credit score. If you increase your credit limit but don’t add to your current balances, you’ll end up using a lower percentage of your available limit.

Factors to Consider

There are a couple factors you’ll want to consider before attempting to get a high-limit credit card.

The Timing

First, make sure that the timing is right for you and your specific financial situation. Your credit card limit is determined by the financial information you provide on your credit card application, especially your income. If you’re in a situation where your income is about to increase (either due to an upcoming bonus, a change in job, or something else), you may want to wait until after your income increases before trying to get a high-limit credit card.

Your Credit Report

Credit card issuers also look at your credit report when choosing whether to issue you a credit card and how much of a credit line to extend. Make sure that you check your credit report before applying and ensure that there are no errors or discrepancies. If there are any errors, you can contact the credit bureaus to have them fixed.

Options for Getting a High-Limit Credit Card

If you think you’re well-positioned to ask for an increase, here are your potential options for how to get a credit card with a high limit — or at least a higher limit than what you currently have.

Contact Your Card Issuer

If you already have a credit card that you enjoy using and want to keep, you can try to contact your card issuer to request a higher limit. You may be able to do so by calling the number listed on the back of your credit card or sending a message online. Explain the credit limit you’re looking for and why you feel that it’s justified.

This approach may be a good idea if your financial situation has improved since you opened the card. This could be due to an increase in income, a new job, or paying down other debt.

Look Out for Automatic Increases

Many card issuers will regularly review the accounts of their cardholders. In some cases, they’ll automatically and proactively increase your credit limit if you’ve been using your credit card responsibly. This is especially common for cards with lower initial limits and cards designed for those with a less robust credit history.

If your issuer has not already increased your credit limit, you can contact them and ask for a higher limit.

Apply for a New Card

Another option is applying for a new card. If you’re not happy with your current credit card or if your current card issuer will not increase your credit limit, getting a new credit card can be another option.

Before applying, make sure that you have checked your credit report for any inaccuracies and paid down outstanding debt if possible. That will help improve your odds of getting a higher credit limit.

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

How High Should Your Credit Limit Be?

There is not a set amount for how high your credit limit should be. Instead, it depends on your specific financial situation.

Aim for a credit limit that is at least twice the average amount you spend on your credit card each month. That will help keep your credit utilization percentage low. And remember that the absolute best thing you can do to help your credit score is to pay your statement off in full, each and every month.

Recommended: What is the Average Credit Card Limit

Choosing the Best High-Limit Credit Card

Many premium and luxury credit cards will offer relatively high credit limits, especially if you have a high credit score and a high income. So instead of looking for the credit card that gives you the absolute highest limit, you might instead consider the overall perks and benefits of each different card. When evaluating different cards, some things to look out for include:

•   Rewards: Take a look at whether a credit card offers rewards and if so, in what form. Perhaps you’d prefer to earn cash-back rewards for the simplicity over credit card points. From there, compare to see which card offers a more generous rewards rate and has better redemption options.

•   Annual fees: You’ll also want to look at whether a card charges an annual rate. If it does, do the math to see if the rewards you’ll earn can offset this cost.

•   Customer service: If you were ever to have an issue with your credit card, it’s important to have a reliable customer support team to turn to. When weighing which card to get, take into account the reputation of their customer support and general customer satisfaction.

•   Luxury or travel perks: Beyond rewards, many credit cards also offer an array of other benefits. This can include rental car insurance, travel insurance, discounts for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck, airport lounge access, hotel stays, and more.

•   Sign-up bonuses: A generous welcome bonus can also help you decide between two otherwise comparable cards. Some credit cards offer bonus cash-back rewards or points when cardholders spend a certain amount within a specific period of time after opening the card.

Recommended: What is a Charge Card

Alternatives to High-Limit Credit Cards

If you’re not able to qualify for a high-limit credit card or simply aren’t sure it’s the right route for you, there are other options to explore instead.

Recommended: How to Avoid Interest On a Credit Card

Home Equity Loan or Home Equity Line of Credit

Depending on what you’re using your credit card for and why you want a high credit limit, you might consider a home equity loan or home equity line of credit (HELOC). Both a home equity loan and a HELOC allow you to capture some of the equity in your home. You can then use that money for other expenses.

Business Line of Credit

If you have a business that’s looking for extra flexibility with accounts receivable and ongoing payments, you might consider a business line of credit. While there are business credit cards that offer high limits, you might be better off with an actual business line of credit. Business lines of credit often base their credit limits based on the monthly or annual gross or net income of the business.

Personal Loan

Another option to consider might be a personal loan, especially if you have good credit and/or a relatively high income. Qualifying for a personal loan can give you money upfront in exchange for regular monthly payments. You can then use that money for whatever projects or expenses make sense for your situation.

Recommended: When Are Credit Card Payments Due

The Takeaway

There can be advantages to having a high-limit credit card, like added flexibility in managing your monthly finances as well as the possibility of improving your credit score. Just make sure that you remain focused and diligent in paying off your statement in full, each and every month. You don’t want a higher credit limit on your credit card to encourage you to spend more.

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.

FAQ

Can you get an unlimited credit limit?

Unless you are ultra-wealthy or have a very special relationship with your credit card issuer, you’re unlikely to get a credit card with no limit at all. There are, however, some credit cards (like the American Express Platinum card) that have no preset credit card spending limit. That means that instead of a standard credit limit, your limit is flexible and may go up and down as your spending habits change.

Should I get a credit card with a higher limit?

Before deciding to get a credit card with a higher limit, you should ask yourself why you want to increase your limit. Is it to better manage your monthly finances? Are you trying to lower your credit card utilization? These can both be good reasons to increase your credit limit. But if you’re just trying to increase it to use as a status symbol or “just because,” you may want to think twice before doing it.

What is the highest credit card limit?

There isn’t a definitive and published answer for the highest possible credit limit. Credit limits are issued to individuals and businesses based on their credit history and income. It’s not unreasonable to think that there are credit cards with a six- or even seven-figure limit. As a data point, the average credit card limit for Americans was $30,365 in 2020.

How can I get a higher credit limit?

The best way to see if you qualify for a higher credit limit is to contact your issuer. You can call the number on the back of your card or reach out via your online account. If you’ve been regularly using your card and paying your bill in full, your issuer may agree to increase your limit. If your income or other financial situation has changed, that’s another reason to contact your issuer and see if you can get a higher credit limit.


Photo credit: iStock/Prostock-Studio

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.

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 .

Third-Party Brand Mentions: No brands, products, or companies mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third-party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.

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What Is Credit Card Arbitrage and Is It Worth It?

What Is Credit Card Arbitrage and Is It Worth It?

It can be tough to turn down an easy money opportunity — and that’s what credit card arbitrage seems to offer investors. But in reality, the strategy, which involves borrowing money with a 0% or low-interest credit card and then putting that money into an investment that earns a higher rate of return, does carry some risks. And it isn’t necessarily a good fit for average investors.

If you’ve heard of credit card arbitrage and wondered if it’s something you should try, read on for a rundown of the risks and rewards — and what this seemingly “free” strategy could ultimately end up costing you.

Recommended: Can You Buy Crypto With a Credit Card

What Is Credit Card Arbitrage?

Let’s say you’re a savvy kid with your eye on making a buck. You see a bicycle for sale at a price that seems too good to be true. So, you borrow some money from your big brother and promise to pay him back a little each week (without interest, because he’s a good guy), and you buy the bike at the bargain price.

You ride around on the bike for a while, and pay your brother every week. You then turn around and sell that bike for twice what you paid — you give your brother the amount you still owe him and pocket the difference.

With credit card arbitrage, or balance transfer arbitrage, the idea is basically the same. You sign up for a credit card with a low or 0% annual percentage rate (APR). Then, you use that credit card account to put money into an investment that will earn more than the interest rate you’re paying on the credit card balance you’re carrying.

You follow one of the basic credit card rules of making at least the minimum payment each month. When the card’s introductory rate expires, you take the money you need out of the investment, pay off the remaining balance on the card, and keep the difference as your profit.

Recommended: When Are Credit Card Payments Due

Credit Card Arbitrage Strategies

What you decide to invest in using a credit card may depend on a few different factors. This includes how much you can borrow, the length of your introductory rate (which is usually six to 18 months), and your tolerance for risk.

Some possible investments for your credit card arbitrage strategy include a high-yield savings account, a certificate of deposit, and short-term bond ETFs.

High-Yield Savings Account

A high-yield savings account may be a good option for risk-averse investors attempting credit card arbitrage. You can’t lose the money because it’s protected at banks by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) and at credit unions by the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA). However, you may have to keep a minimum balance to avoid a monthly service fee.

An alternative to attempting credit arbitrage using a high-yield savings account might be to save using an online-only financial institution. Online banks tend to offer more competitive rates than brick-and-mortar banks.

Certificate of Deposit

Another investment with limited risk is a short-term (six months to a year) or no-penalty certificate of deposit, or CD. A CD may offer a higher interest rate than a savings account, and it also will be insured by the FDIC.

The benefit of a no-penalty CD over a short-term CD is that if you find a higher return elsewhere, you can withdraw your money and move it without paying a fee. Otherwise, you’ll face an early withdrawal penalty if you try to take your money out of a CD before the term is over.

Recommended: How to Avoid Interest On a Credit Card

Short-Term Bond ETFs

A bond exchange-traded fund (ETF) that holds short-term bonds may be another low-risk option to consider. Bond ETFs are traded on the stock market, so they’re more liquid than other types of bonds and bond funds. And funds that have a shorter term are less exposed to changing interest rates.

Still, if you’re unfamiliar with bond ETFs, you may want to take some time to research the pros and cons of this investment — including the potential for loss and how to reduce trading costs.

Pros and Cons of Credit Card Arbitrage

As mentioned, there are definite downsides to credit card arbitrage. However, there’s the potential for gains, too. Here’s a quick rundown of the pros and cons of credit arbitrage:

Pros

Cons

May be an easy way to make money if you can find the right investment Difficult to find a safe investment that makes the strategy worth the effort and risk
A low-interest card with cash-back rewards or points could add to the strategy’s benefits Consequences for late payment could eat into expected profit
Making timely payments could help your credit score Taking out a card and using up your available credit could negatively affect your credit score

The upside to using credit card arbitrage is the potential to make some extra money with very little effort. If you’ve worked hard to earn and maintain a credit score that qualifies you for a credit card with a 0% or low-interest rate, you can use that card to fund an investment and, if all goes well, quickly pocket a profit.

If you choose a credit card that offers credit card rewards, such as cash back or points, that could be an added benefit. Further, by always making at least the minimum payments on the credit card and repaying the balance on time, you might help build your credit score. (Although if you qualify for a low-interest card, you probably already have good credit.)

Unfortunately, there are also plenty of downsides to credit card arbitrage — starting with finding an investment that works well with the strategy. Though in recent months the Federal Reserve has been bumping up its benchmark interest rate, it may take a while before those increases lead to noticeably higher yields on savings accounts and CDs.

Depending on how much you decide to borrow and how long your introductory period lasts, the small amount you might earn from your investment may not be worth the effort or risk of using your credit card.

And there are risks involved with credit arbitrage. For starters, you can expect to feel some effects if you make a late payment on your card. You might have to pay a late fee or, worse, the credit card company could cancel your promotional interest rate and immediately begin charging a substantially higher interest rate on the account. That could take a significant bite from your profits.

Your credit score also could suffer — even if you make timely payments. Just opening a new line of credit may temporarily lower your score. And if you borrow all or a large portion of your available credit, it could affect your credit card utilization ratio, which also can negatively affect your credit score.

You also can expect your credit score to go down if you do end up making a late payment (or payments). Payment history is the No. 1 factor in determining your FICO Score.

Considering Credit Card Arbitrage? What to Know

There’s an old saying in investing: Don’t risk more than you can afford to lose. Or, as your mom might put it: Just because you can doesn’t mean you should.

Credit arbitrage may look like an easy and “free” way to make some extra money, but it’s a strategy that’s probably best left to investment professionals. If you do decide to attempt it, here are a few things you can do in advance to protect yourself:

•   Have a backup plan. What would happen if you suddenly lost your job or had unexpected expenses from an illness or accident? Unless you have a healthy emergency fund or your investment can be easily liquidated, you could quickly run into financial trouble.

•   Make sure you understand the terms of your credit card agreement. How long does the introductory period last? (The longer the better.) What happens if you miss a payment? What’s the rate when the promotional period expires?

•   Know yourself. This strategy requires using a credit card responsibly. If you aren’t clear on how credit cards work or think you’ll be tempted to use your card for a spending spree instead of investing, you may want to think twice before moving forward.

•   Don’t forget about fees. Run the numbers to be sure your investment will still pay off after you cover fees and other costs.

Recommended: 10 Credit Card Rules You Should Know

Other Ways to Save and Make Money Using Your Credit Card

If the concept of credit card arbitrage is new to you, it may be because there are other popular ways to use a credit card to save and make money. Here are some other options to consider.

Recommended: Tips for Using a Credit Card Responsibly

Earning Cash Back

With a cash-back rewards card, cardholders can get back a percentage of the money they spent on purchases during a billing cycle. That percentage varies from one card to the next — and there also may be different ways you can receive your cash rewards. You may be able to apply the cash directly to your balance, put it toward gift cards or charitable giving, or have the money deposited directly into your checking account.

Getting cash-back rewards can be an especially effective strategy if you use your card for frequent and/or major purchases and pay down your balance every month.

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

Earning Rewards Points

Some card issuers offer a rewards program based on credit card points. Cardholders may be able to put their points toward multiple purposes, including travel (flights, hotels, car rentals), statement credits, cash back, and more. The value of points may vary depending on the specific credit card as well as how you opt to redeem earned points.

Investing Your Rewards

You also may be able to invest with credit card rewards. For instance, if you earned cash-back rewards from your credit card spending, you could redeem your rewards as a direct deposit or check. Then, you could use that money to invest with credit card rewards basically — either in a literal investment, such as stocks or index funds, or even in yourself, through additional job training or classes.

Shopping Online to Earn Bonus Rewards

Some credit cards offer bonus rewards for shopping online or through an app. Card issuers may have different rules for their rewards (think goods instead of services, or certain brands only) so it’s a good idea to check out a rewards program’s requirements before signing up.

Using a Balance Transfer Card to Pay Down Debt

Another possibility is to use a no-interest balance transfer credit card to pay down debt. Once you move your balance from a high-interest card to the new card, you’ll have several months to pay down your debt without accruing any additional interest.

Just as with credit card arbitrage, it’s important to be sure you make your monthly payments on time, though, or you could see a big jump in your card’s interest rate. Also keep in mind that a balance transfer fee will apply, so be sure to factor that into the equation.

Using a 0% APR Card

Planning to take a dream trip or make a major purchase? A no-interest credit card could allow you to finance your big spend without accruing interest. You’ll just want to make sure you can pay off the balance within the promotional period, and make your payments on time.

The Takeaway

You may have heard credit card arbitrage, or balance transfer arbitrage, touted as an easy way to make some extra cash. But the process, which involves using a no- or low-interest credit card to finance an investment that earns a higher rate of return, isn’t as simple as it may seem. It can require careful planning, financial savvy, and some research to find the right investment for this strategy. And even if all goes well, the payoff may not be worth the time and effort.

There are other, more proven, ways to save or invest using a low-interest and/or rewards credit card. When you get a credit card through SoFi, for example, your cash-back rewards are worth more if you use them to pay down an eligible SoFi loan, deposit as cash in your SoFi Checking and Savings account, or add to your SoFi Invest account. And because SoFi is always working to keep costs low, members don’t have to worry about losing money to high fees.

Learn how you can spend, save, and invest with a SoFi credit card.

FAQ

Are there risks involved in credit card arbitrage?

Yes. Even if your investment seems super safe and like it won’t lose money, if you don’t make your monthly payments on time, or if you can’t pay off the balance before the promotional period is up, you could find yourself in a financial bind.

Is credit card arbitrage legal?

Yes. But just because you can do it doesn’t mean you should. There are other more proven ways to save and invest using a credit card.

How much can you make with credit arbitrage?

The amount you can make using credit card arbitrage depends on several factors. This includes how much you choose to borrow and invest, your card’s interest rate, how much your investment pays, the length of your card’s promotional period, and the fees you might incur when investing.


Photo credit: iStock/Prostock-Studio

1See Rewards Details at SoFi.com/card/rewards.

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.

Members earn 2 rewards points for every dollar spent on purchases. No rewards points will be earned with respect to reversed transactions, returned purchases, or other similar transactions. When you elect to redeem rewards points into your SoFi Checking or Savings account, SoFi Money® account, SoFi Active Invest account, SoFi Credit Card account, or SoFi Personal, Private Student, or Student Loan Refinance, your rewards points will redeem at a rate of 1 cent per every 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.

SoFi cardholders earn 2% unlimited cash back rewards when redeemed to save, invest, a statement credit, or pay down eligible SoFi debt.

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Instant-Use Credit Cards, Explained

Instant-Use Credit Cards, Explained

After you’re approved for a new credit card, you usually have to wait for it to arrive in the mail before you can start using it. But with an instant-use credit card, as the name implies, you can start swiping immediately.

While not all credit card issuers offer this feature, some issuers share account information with cardholders as soon as they’re approved. Getting a credit card you can use instantly can come in handy if you’re eager to start racking up rewards or spending to secure a sign-up bonus.

What Is an Instant-Use Credit Card?

Instant-use is a feature that some credit cards offer, allowing account holders to use the credit card before they receive a physical card. This is a perk given how long it takes to get a credit card otherwise — usually, cardholders can expect to wait anywhere from five business days to two weeks for their card to arrive in the mail.

Each credit card issuer can have unique policies and requirements about using an instant-access credit card. For example, you may not have access to your full credit limit until your physical credit card arrives.

How Instant-Use Credit Cards Work

There are a few different ways that credit cards offering instant use may work. You may receive a credit card account number before you get the actual card, which allows you to use the account online. Or, the credit card issuer may provide a temporary instant credit card number or barcode that you can use to make purchases before the official card and number arrives. Note that this differs from virtual credit cards, where the credit card numbers you receive are always temporary and disposable.

In other cases, it’s possible to add the instant-use credit card you’re approved for to a digital wallet, such as PayPal, Google Pay, or Apple Pay. You could then use the card as you’d use other cards in your digital wallet.

Benefits of Instant-Use Credit Cards

The exact benefits of an instant-use credit card depend upon the specific policies of the issuer. Besides providing access to the credit card account more quickly, these cards can offer the following perks.

Faster Rewards Accrual

A key benefit of instant-use credit cards is how quickly you can use them. If a credit card for immediate use features a rewards program, you could start accrue these rewards more quickly, thanks to prompt access to your credit card account. Similarly, if your card offers a lucrative sign-up bonus, you can start spending to earn it that much sooner.

Discounts

Many brands offer discounts to those who get their instant-use credit card. For instance, some retailers may provide a 25% discount on the first purchase you make with the instant-use card. You could use that discount strategically on the largest purchase you’d planned to make in order to maximize this benefit.

Financing Offers

An instant credit card number may offer special financing offers, such as a 0% annual percentage rate (APR) for a designated amount of time. Taking advantage of such an offer can save you a significant amount of money if you pay off your full balance before the promotion ends. Otherwise, the regular interest rate will kick in.

Recommended: How to Avoid Interest On a Credit Card

Drawbacks of Instant-Use Credit Cards

When choosing a credit card, it can understandably seem tempting to get a credit card you can use today. Watch out, though, for the following drawbacks of instant-use credit cards.

Limited Availability

There aren’t that many instant-use credit cards available to choose from. Only a select number of issuers offer them, with some only offering instant access on certain cards. Further, even if you do apply for one of the instant-use credit cards offered, there’s the chance you won’t get immediate access if the issuer encounters any challenges confirming your information.

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

Initial Usage Restrictions

With some instant-use credit cards, you don’t get immediate access to your full credit limit until you activate your physical card. Instead, when you receive your instant credit card number, you’ll only be able to use a limited portion of your approved credit limit. Especially if you were planning to make a large purchase immediately, this could cap your spending power.

Recommended: What is the Average Credit Card Limit

Potential for Overspending

This can be a downside of any credit card. But with a credit card for immediate use, it can be tempting to run up the balance as soon as you have the account number in hand.

Tips for Getting an Instant-Use Credit Card

If you’re hoping to secure a credit card you can use immediately, here are some tips to keep in mind throughout the process.

Check Your Credit Score Before Applying

Before you move forward with applying — and incurring a dip in your credit score due to a hard inquiry — take a look at your credit score. See if it falls within an issuer’s credit card requirements. If it doesn’t, you might be better off applying for another card you’re more likely to get approved for. Or, you could take steps to improve your credit score before you submit an application, assuming you have the time to do so.

Don’t Skip Researching

If you’re in a rush to find a credit card for immediate use, you might feel tempted to jump on the first instant-use credit card you spot. But don’t let a sense of urgency cause you to skip out on doing due diligence. It’s still important to take the time to compare your options, and to review a credit card’s terms and conditions before you’d move forward with applying.

Remember to Read the Fine Print

When you’re in a rush to get a credit card you can use today, it can seem harmless enough to skip over reading the fine print. However, especially in the case of instant-use credit cards, this can contain some important information when it comes to understanding credit cards.

For instance, there may be restrictions on usage of your instant credit card number, such as limited access to your credit limit. If you’d planned to make a massive purchase immediately, you’ll want to know that sooner rather than later.

Tips for Using an Instant-Use Credit Card

If you get approved for a credit card for immediate use, it’s likely you’ll want to start using it as soon as possible. Here are some important tips to keep in mind as you start spending.

Know Your Options for Access

Issuers will provide approved applicants with usage instructions for their instant-access credit cards. The issuer may give you a credit card number that you can then use to make purchases online or using your mobile wallet. If the credit card is attached to a retailer, they may set it up so you can use their app right away with the credit card number they provide. For instance, the Capital One Walmart Rewards Card allows you to instantly start using the card through the Walmart app and Walmart Pay.

Don’t Forget to Active Your Physical Card When It Arrives

Even if you’re already off to the races when it comes to spending with your new credit card, don’t neglect your physical card when it does arrive in the mail. Unless you have your card in your digital wallet, an instant use credit card number limits you to online or over-the-phone purchases. Plus, some issues only offer partial access to your credit limit until your physical card is activated.

Remember That Basic Credit Card Rules Still Apply

Same-day credit cards come with the same set of credit card rules as any other card. Before you get carried away with making purchases, make sure you’re not spending more than you can afford to pay off. You’ll also want to set up a reminder — or even better, auto-pay — to ensure you make timely payments on your new credit card.

Recommended: When Are Credit Card Payments Due

What to Do If Your Card Doesn’t Offer Instant Access

If you thought you’d applied for an instant-access credit card only to discover it actually isn’t a credit card you can use instantly, you do have options.

For one, you can call your credit card issuer and request rush delivery. Though this likely won’t be as speedy as instant access, it can expedite the mailing process. Just keep in mind that you may owe a fee to cover the cost of faster shipping.

You might also explore a personal loan. Many online lenders offer same-day funding, and the interest rates for personal loans tend to be lower than those of credit cards. Just keep in mind that applying for multiple loans in a short amount of time can affect your credit score. That’s because each application results in a hard inquiry, which will temporarily lower your score.

Lastly, this could be a good time to dip into your emergency fund — especially if you really need fast access to cash. If you do, just make sure to replenish your savings so you’re covered the next time an unexpected expense comes up.

The Takeaway

Applying for instant-use credit cards can come with benefits, including immediate buying power. There are some downsides to consider, though, before making the right credit card choice for your unique needs. For one, you’ll have a more limited selection of cards to choose from, as not all credit card issuers offer instant-use credit cards.

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.

FAQ

Can you use a credit card the same day you get it?

With instant-use credit cards, you can use the card upon approval, which could happen almost instantly. For credit cards that don’t offer instant use, you can typically use the card as soon it arrives in the mail.

How long does it take for a credit card to arrive in the mail?

There are two factors that can impact how long it takes for a credit card to arrive. The first is how long approval takes, which can happen nearly instantly or take up to a week or so. You’ll then have to wait on mailing time, which can take anywhere from five business days up to two calendar weeks.

Can I use my credit card before it arrives?

There are credit cards that you can use instantly, although not all credit cards offer this capability. Some cards require you to wait for the physical card to arrive before you using it. If you have an instant-use credit card, you’ll receive instructions from the issuer on how to start using the account right away.


Photo credit: iStock/Cunaplus_M.Faba

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.

Third-Party Brand Mentions: No brands, products, or companies mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third-party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.

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How Credit Card Frauds Are Caught

How Credit Card Frauds Are Investigated and Caught

Even if you’ve never been a victim of credit card fraud yourself, you probably know someone who has — and you may have wondered how credit card frauds are caught. Credit card companies and merchants frequently update the security measures they use to prevent credit card fraud, and their investigators will check into issues as they occur. Law enforcement also may get involved, depending on the type of fraud and the amount.

That being said, it’s still important for you to protect yourself against credit card fraud. Read on to learn about the different types of credit card fraud you might encounter, what to do if you suspect your account has been compromised, and steps to take to safeguard your account going forward.

What Is Credit Card Fraud?

Credit card fraud is the unauthorized use of a person’s credit card information to purchase goods and services or get cash from an account. According to data the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has collected over the past four years, credit card fraud is the most reported form of identity theft.

Luckily, federal law can limit your responsibility if you move quickly to report a lost or stolen card or dispute unauthorized charges. Still, it can be a real hassle to clear up the mess and keep inaccurate information caused by identity theft off your credit reports.

Recommended: Tips for Using a Credit Card Responsibly

What Types of Credit Card Fraud Are There?

You can become a victim of credit card fraud whether someone physically takes your card, virtually hacks into your account, or uses your information to create a new account. Here’s how fraudsters can obtain and use your account information through various credit card scams.

Card-Present Fraud

EMV® chips, PINs, and other security measures have made “card-present” fraud less of a factor than it used to be. But there are still some criminals who are willing to risk using a lost, stolen, or counterfeit card to make an in-person purchase — and they’ll likely move quickly to do so.

Even if you think you’ve simply misplaced a card, you may want to use your card’s “on/off” feature, if there’s one available, to temporarily suspend the card until you can locate it or report that it’s missing.

Card-Not-Present Fraud

Even if your cards are safely tucked away in your wallet, you may find unauthorized charges on your statement. These days, it’s far more common for a thief to work behind the scenes to get your account information and use it to commit fraud online or over the phone.

Card Skimming

You’ve probably seen warnings in the news about thieves placing skimming devices on gas pumps, but credit card skimmers can be used to steal information just about anywhere there’s a card-reading device. This can include on ATMs and at stores and restaurants.

When you swipe a card, the skimmer reads the magnetic strip and stores the credit card number, expiration date, and cardholder’s name. There are also devices (cameras or false keypads) that can record a PIN number.

The captured information can then be used to make fraudulent charges online or over the phone. The hacker could also sell the collected data or use it to create counterfeit cards.

Recommended: What is a Charge Card

False Application Fraud

If identity thieves can get access to your personal information (through a data breach or some other method), they might be able to use it to apply for a new credit card, loan, or line of credit in your name. Or, they might blend information from several victims to create a false identity.

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

“Card Never Arrived” Fraud

This type of fraud can happen when someone intercepts a new or replacement card before you receive it in the mail. If a new card doesn’t come when you think it should have arrived, you may want to check with your credit card issuer to make sure it hasn’t been taken.

Phishing

Sometimes identity thieves will try to get the personal information they need using a phishing email, text, or phone call that appears like it’s from a bank or some other familiar contact or business. The message might ask you to click on a link or go to a website where you’ll be asked for your password, the CVV number on your credit card, or other details that may be used to access your accounts.

Hacking

Your personal details also could be at risk if your bank, credit card company, or some other business that stores your info is involved in a data breach. If this were to happen, a hacker could get ahold of your credit card information.

Account Takeover

Once a person’s identifying information is stolen (through a data breach, phishing, or another method), a thief may contact credit card companies directly. They could impersonate the cardholder and change their PINs and passwords to take over the account.

How Are Credit Card Frauds Typically Caught?

Early detection is critical when it comes to catching credit card fraud and minimizing the damage thieves can do. Unfortunately, unless you notice your card is lost or stolen, or you see unusual activity on your account statement, you and your credit card company might not know someone is making unauthorized charges for days or even weeks.

How Often Do Credit Card Frauds Get Caught?

It’s difficult to say how often credit card frauds get caught. A heads-up clerk might notice someone using a stolen credit card and call it in to the police. Or, an investigator might be able to trace a criminal who uses a stolen credit card number online. But unless you know the person involved in committing the fraud, you may not find out if there’s actually been an arrest.

The good news for credit card fraud victims is that if you quickly report the fraudulent use of your account, you won’t be held responsible for the charges. The Fair Credit Billing Act protects credit card users from being held liable for more than $50 in the event of fraud. Even better, major card networks have their own “zero liability” policies to ensure you won’t pay for unauthorized charges made with your credit card or account information.

Recommended: Complete Guide to How Credit Cards Work

How Do Credit Card Companies Investigate Fraud?

The best way to start an investigation into fraudulent transactions on your credit card is to notify the credit card issuer, either by phone or online chat. The card issuer will likely deactivate your card and send you a replacement. It also may refund your money at this point, or it may want to wait until the case is investigated.

The issuer then has 30 days to respond to your report and begin its investigation. The investigation can take up to 90 days to be completed.

As for how credit card companies investigate fraud, the issuer’s internal investigation team will begin by gathering evidence about any disputed transactions. It may check for things like transaction timestamps, the IP address of the person who made the disputed purchase, and the purchaser’s geographic location. If the crime appears to be part of a larger pattern or organization, the card issuer might alert the FBI or other law enforcement officials.

You may be able to help the investigation if you also report the crime to local law enforcement — especially if you believe the theft was committed by someone you know, or by someone local who stole personal information from your computer or mailbox. The FTC’s identity theft website can take you through the steps of filing an identity theft report.

Recommended: Can You Buy Crypto With a Credit Card

What Should You Do If You Suspect Credit Card Fraud?

Besides reporting credit card fraud as soon as you suspect there’s an issue, there are other steps you can take to further safeguard your finances.

Send a Follow-Up Letter

The FTC recommends following up immediately with a letter to the card issuer that confirms you reported unauthorized activity on your account. You should note the date and time you reported the loss, and include any relevant documents (such as your police report and/or your report to the FTC).

Send the letter to the credit card company’s address for billing inquiries (not the address where you make payments). Consider sending it by certified mail so you have a receipt.

Recommended: When Are Credit Card Payments Due

Change Your Passwords

It’s a good idea to change your password occasionally anyway. But if you suspect you’ve been the victim of identity theft, you may want to review all of your accounts and change your passwords and PINs.

Contact the Credit Bureaus

You also should contact the three major credit bureaus to report your problem, and you may want to request a credit freeze, credit lock, and/or fraud alert. What’s the difference?

•   A credit freeze, also known as a security freeze, limits access to your credit report without your permission. This can make it harder for an identity thief to open a new credit account or loan in your name. A credit freeze is free, but you must request a separate freeze from each credit bureau. And when you want to unfreeze your file, you must do that separately as well, usually by using a PIN or password provided by each credit bureau.

•   A credit lock is pretty much the same thing as a credit freeze, but it may be more convenient. Once you set it up, you can lock and unlock your credit reports using an app or secure website. Plus, you don’t have to keep track of a PIN or password to change your status.

•   A fraud alert doesn’t put an all-out block on your credit report the way a freeze or lock can, but it still can be a useful tool. It puts a notice on your credit reports that cautions creditors that you may be a fraud victim. Additionally, it encourages them to take extra steps to verify your identity before opening a new account or changing something on a current account. Fraud alerts are free, and once you place a fraud alert with one of the credit bureaus, it will send a request to the other two bureaus to set up alerts on their reports.

Recommended: What is the Average Credit Card Limit

Watch Your Credit Card and Banking Statements

Don’t assume you’re out of the woods because you haven’t seen any unauthorized charges for a while. It may take weeks or even months before charges show up on your accounts if you’re the victim of identity theft. Checking your bank account, credit card, and other statements regularly for unusual charges (and to track your own spending) is a healthy financial habit to develop.

Track Your Credit Reports and Credit Score

It also can be helpful to track your credit reports to make sure the unauthorized charges you reported were blocked or removed, and that nothing new has turned up. Lenders, credit card issuers, and others use these reports to determine your creditworthiness, so you’ll want them to accurately reflect your finances.

You also can check your credit score to be sure it’s where it should be. Consumers can get a free credit report once a year from each of the three credit bureaus, and many financial institutions and credit card companies provide free credit scores to their customers. Even if you’re not a victim of identity theft, this can be a good credit card rule to follow.

Protecting Yourself From Credit Card Fraud

Unfortunately, identity theft and fraud can happen to even the most vigilant credit cardholders. To improve your chances of spotting and tracking unusual transactions, you may want to:

•   Set up transaction alerts: If your credit card issuer offers fraud notifications, it could help you react more quickly to unauthorized charges on your account. You may be able to set up alerts for specific transaction types, amounts, or locations. If an alert is triggered, you’ll be notified (usually by text, push notification, or email), so you can let the card issuer know as soon as possible if there’s a problem.

•   Track charges online or with an app: The days of waiting for your monthly credit card statement to arrive in the mail are long gone. You can check your current credit card balance and other details any time you like, by logging into your account regularly (at least once a week) or using a mobile app.

•   Sign up for credit monitoring: A credit monitoring program is another way to find out quickly (generally within 24 hours or less) if there’s been some type of unusual activity on an account. The service can notify you of major changes to your credit report, including large purchases or inquiries from lenders or credit card companies. If you didn’t make any big purchases or apply for a new credit card or loan, you can quickly take steps to inform your card issuer and the credit bureaus.

The Takeaway

Detecting and reporting credit card fraud as soon as possible is critical if you hope to limit the stress and cost of clearing it up. Even though issuers are on top of credit card fraud investigation, It’s also important to take steps to proactively protect your accounts.

Carefully choosing which credit cards you use is one way you can help safeguard yourself. The SoFi Credit Card, for example, offers chip technology, ID theft protection, and other security features. It also can make monitoring all your accounts easier, because you can manage your credit card, loans, banking, and investing all in one place on SoFi’s app or website.

Check out how the SoFi Credit Card can help protect your financial future.

FAQ

Can you trace credit card fraud?

Yes. If you notice suspicious activity on your credit card account, you can notify your credit card issuer immediately. The card issuer will then take steps to investigate any fraudulent transactions. You also should contact the three major credit card bureaus, and you may want to make a police report.

How long does it take to investigate a credit card fraud?

The card issuer must send a letter confirming it received your fraud report within 30 days. It then has 90 days to complete its investigation.

What evidence can a card issuer use to investigate a credit card fraud?

The card issuer will use any information you provide in the course of its investigation. It also may gather further evidence by talking to the merchant who was involved, looking at transaction timestamps, or checking the IP address of the device used to make an online transaction.

What fraud protection measures do credit card issuers provide?

Credit card issuers have developed several features to stop criminals from committing fraud. Those measures range from chip technology and PIN and password protections, to real-time risk assessments that allow merchants to decide whether to approve or deny a transaction.


Photo credit: iStock/Galetos

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.

SoFi cardholders earn 2% unlimited cash back rewards when redeemed to save, invest, a statement credit, or pay down eligible SoFi debt.

External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third-party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.

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