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Credit card habits to adopt in the new year

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What are your credit card habits? If you’re like most consumers, you only use them for big purchases or in emergency situations, without taking advantage of the many other ways your cards can be working for you … earning travel miles, discounts and more.

Take a fresh look at how you use your credit cards and maximize your experience by adopting the following five habits for 2015:

1. Pay the balance in full and on time:

Avoid interest on your credit card bill by paying each month’s statement balance in full. About half of American consumers pay off their balance in full, while others tend to carry a balance. Avoiding interest not only saves you money, but by keeping your debt low and making payments on time, you can work toward, or maintain, a high credit score. Maintaining a high credit score can help you land a loan for your dream home!

2. No debt? Start earning rewards:

If you’ve already paid off your credit card balances, you may want to reconsider a reward-earning strategy. The most competitive reward-earning credit cards offer valuable points towards travel and even cash back for spending on those cards.

3. Read each and every statement:

In 2014, a record number of retailers were hacked. Luckily, cardholders’ liability for fraudulent charges was limited. Nonetheless, you have to do your part by scrutinizing each statement, making note of any unauthorized charges and alert the card issuer in order to have the transactions reversed. If it shouldn’t be there, report it.

4. Make use of your card’s benefits:

While many airline credit card users bank on frequent flier miles earned, or even a free checked bag, most overlook the many other benefits offered. In fact, all major credit card companies offer a variety of valuable purchase protection and travel insurance policies, which can extend a manufacturer’s warranty on costly items like a new television or laptop.

5. Stop paying fees:

Fees are common for credit card users, but there is usually a way around them. If you travel outside the United States, you could be paying upwards of 3 percent toward foreign transaction fees. Thankfully there are now a handful of cards that won’t charge you this fee. Avoid late fees by setting up automatic payments or by investing in a card which advertises no late fees. To avoid costly annual fees, simply ask to have them waived.