Get smart about credit Oct 18, 2012, 9:35 am By Heidi Carmack Pfaffroth

 Today is Get Smart About Credit Day, and to help you know how to effectively use credit, we teamed up with American Bankers Association Education Foundation’s Get Smart About Credit program.

Here are some credit Dos and Don’ts, courtesy of the Get Smart About Credit program:

• DO read the fine print on the credit application. The application is a contract, so read it carefully before signing. Credit card companies are very competitive so interest rates, credit limits, grace periods, annual fees, terms and conditions may vary.

• DO be wary of anyone who claims they can “fix” your credit report. No one can legally remove negative accurate information from your credit history. The only thing that can fix a credit report is time and a positive payment history.

• DO pay at least the minimum due and contact your creditor if you have trouble making payments. This will help you to avoid late fees and a rising APR. To pay off your balance quicker, pay more than the minimum due. If you are unable to make the minimum monthly payments, let your creditor know so they can work with you to create a more manageable payment plan.

• DON’T feel pressure to get a credit card. If you don’t want one, you have the right to say “no.” Under the CARD Act of 2009 consumers aged 18-21 cannot be solicited for credit. If you no longer wish to receive prescreened offers, opt out by calling 1-888-5-OPTOUT (1-888-567-8688) or visit www.optoutprescreen.com.

• DON’T ignore the warning signs of credit trouble. If you pay only the minimum balance, pay late, use cash-advances to fund daily living expenses or transfer a lot of balances you might be in the “credit” danger zone. Talk to a financial counseling organization to regain control of your finances.

• DON’T share your credit card number. Never give out credit card or personal information if you have not initiated the transaction. Be aware of identity theft and phishing scams that ask for credit card numbers. If you suspect that your identity has been compromised, file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission by calling 1-877-ID-THEFT (1-877-438-4338); TDD: 202-326-2502, or visit www.ftc.gov/idtheft.

What lessons did you learn from having your first credit card?

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