Education Center

Tips for first-time credit card users

Getting your first credit card? Now's the perfect time to educate yourself in the best ways to use your card.

The basics

Know the difference between being able to buy what you want and being able to afford it. Arm yourself with this basic information before you dive in.

  • The credit-card issuing company is lending you money, and you're responsible for repaying that debt.
  • Take the time to choose a card that fits the way you plan to use it.
  • Investigate the details of the card thoroughly. Be sure to understand all the fees and how interest charges are calculated.

The dos

Getting your first credit card can be exciting. Here are some good habits to establish to make sure it stays fun:

  • Put together a spending and budget plan – Your credit card payments should be less than 20% of your monthly income.
  • Be sure to use your credit card wisely – Consider spending no more than 30% of your available credit limit.
  • Start slowly – Keep using cash, debit cards and checks for most purchases, especially until you get comfortable with the card and your monthly payments.
  • Pay your balance on time each month – Avoiding late payments will help you build a good credit score.
  • Pay off your entire balance each month – If you can't pay the entire balance in full, be sure to pay more than the minimum balance to help save money in interest charges.
  • Keep your card active – Letting a credit card become inactive could negatively affect your credit score and, if your lender closes the card, your total amount of available credit will be reduced. Make small credit purchases every 3 or 4 months just to keep the card active.
  • Monitor your credit report – Be sure to check your credit score on a regular basis. You're entitled to a free credit report every year. Visit (opens in a new tab) to get your copy now.

The don'ts

Everyone makes mistakes, but the following tips can help protect you.

  • Resist the temptation to apply for multiple credit cards at once – Too many applications and inquiries can negatively impact your credit score
  • Never let other people use your card, and don't give out the number – Remember: You're ultimately responsible for all charges on your card
  • Don't skim past your transaction history – Check your recent transactions every few days, either online or from your card's mobile app to help guard against suspicious activity and manage your account responsibly
  • Avoid using your card for cash advances – The interest rate charged for cash advances is usually higher that the purchase rate, and interest is charged immediately

The bottom line

Learning to use a credit card takes time and practice. Follow these first-time credit card tips to help you start building your reputation as a responsible credit card user.

Related topics

Tips for first-time credit card users

It's the perfect time to educate yourself in the ways of responsible credit card use.

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Establishing credit is the first step toward future life purchases such as a house or car.

Understanding your credit report

We'll help you cut through the clutter and obtain valuable—and often free—information about your credit.

The importance of a budget

Learn how to create a sensible budget that fits your needs.

The information provided is not intended to be legal, tax, or financial advice. BB&T cannot guarantee that it is accurate, up to date, or appropriate for your situation. You should consult with a qualified attorney or financial advisor to understand how the law applies to your particular circumstances or for financial information specific to your personal or business situation.

Branch Banking and Trust Company, Member FDIC.