HomeFinanceCredit Card 101: How Do Credit Cards Work

Credit Card 101: How Do Credit Cards Work

Even in the event you’re conscious of the advantages, opening your first bank card will be intimidating. From navigating what spending means to your credit score rating to understanding how rates of interest work — in the event you’re contemplating making use of for a bank card, it’s vital to know how bank cards work to keep away from pointless expenses and even debt.

But how do bank cards work? In this newcomers information, we’ll be sure you’re able to personal your first bank card so you’ll be able to capitalize on their advantages with out placing a pressure in your funds.

What Is a Credit Card?

A bank card is a small plastic card used to buy items and providers. They basically work as a short-term mortgage the place the financial institution will present you a credit score restrict, which is the amount of cash you’re allowed to spend. Once you begin utilizing your bank card for purchases, your out there credit score begins to lower.


A design covers common credit card terms you need to know to understand how credit cards work.


How Do Credit Cards Work?


A graphic explains how do credit cards work


When you utilize a bank card, you’re basically borrowing cash out of your financial institution or the credit score issuer. Once you buy one thing and the fee is accepted, the quantity is taken out of your credit score restrict and included in your present stability.

Once a month, you’re inspired to make the minimal fee for the cardboard or pay the complete assertion quantity. Keep in thoughts that not making the funds might include a price since any excellent stability is topic to curiosity charges, that are attributable to the annual proportion price (APR).

APR is how a lot the credit score issuer expenses you to borrow a line of credit score. It is charged on any excellent stability after the bank card’s fee due date. To keep away from paying curiosity expenses, you might want to repay the complete assertion stability each due date. According to U.S. News, the typical APR on all playing cards is 15.56 p.c to 22.87 p.c.

Here’s a breakdown of how APR works:

  • Let’s say your new bank card has an APR of 18%
  • Your credit score card stability is $1,500
  • If you retain this stability, you’ll find yourself paying curiosity charges. After one 12 months, this quantity would improve by $270 — 18% of $1,500. The curiosity quantity is then added to your stability, totaling $1,770.
  • If you resolve to pay the complete stability of $1,500 by the due date, you received’t must pay the curiosity quantity of $270.

After you make a fee, your out there stability will improve by the quantity you paid, permitting you to make extra purchases.

Credit Card Tip

Set up automated transfers to your bank card to repay at the least the minimal fee for each assertion. But purpose to pay your bank card’s full assertion each month.

Difference Between Credit Card and Debit Card

Although related in look, bank cards and debit playing cards are completely different. A debit card routinely deducts cash out of your checking account. When you make a purchase order utilizing a bank card, you’re not utilizing your individual cash at that second.

Purchasing one thing with a bank card means you’re spending the credit score issuer’s cash, which you need to pay at a later date and is topic to curiosity charges.


Credit CardDebit Card
Offers a line of credit scoreTakes off cash straight from account
Make a least the minimal feeNo minimal fee required
Subject to curiosity chargesNo curiosity charged
Subject to late charges and annual chargesSubject to overdraft charges
Used to enhance credit score ratingDoes not have an effect on credit score rating


The benefit of debit playing cards is that you just don’t have to fret about curiosity charges or minimal funds, and also you probably received’t have to fret about late and annual charges, not like bank cards. However, you could possibly be topic to overdraft charges if there aren’t sufficient funds in your account to cowl your buy.

Additionally, bank cards can assist you enhance your credit score rating, whereas debit playing cards don’t have an effect on your credit score rating.

Credit Card Tip

Avoid paying a penalty APR by paying your card on time. A penalty APR is normally one of many highest APRs and is utilized to your assertion while you wait greater than 60 days to repay your stability.

The Benefits of Credit Cards

But do you want a bank card? If bank cards are used responsibly, they will offer you many advantages. Here are some the reason why it’s best to take into account a bank card:

Build Credit

Having credit score rating will be useful when buying a home or making use of for a mortgage. By paying your bank card off on time and having credit score utilization ratio, you’ll be able to doubtlessly improve your credit score rating — or begin constructing one.


Credit playing cards are a handy and quick solution to pay for items and providers. With contactless expertise similar to faucet to pay and digital wallets, you don’t have to fret about looking for unfastened money in your bag. They are additionally handy since utilizing credit score you’re basically paying it later.

Budgeting Tools

Credit card month-to-month statements is usually a helpful budgeting software. Your bank card assertion can assist you determine how a lot you’re spending on issues and your spending habits.

Fraud Protection

Many bank cards have fraud safety and safety features to maintain you protected from bank card fraud. Although these protections differ by issuer, they will embrace completely different options like safety alerts, fraud legal responsibility, and card locking choices.


Different bank cards will offer you completely different rewards. Find a card that may offer you the most effective rewards to your life-style. Credit card rewards can embrace cashback and journey miles.

Types of Credit Cards + How They Compare

Finding a bank card that’s best for you can assist you higher handle your cash and construct your credit score rating.

If you need to evaluate bank cards facet by facet, right here’s what it’s best to take into account:

  • What are the annual charges
  • Do they’ve a free credit score rating checker
  • Is there’s a minimal deposit
  • Which rewards can be found

Here are a number of the various kinds of bank cards:


A graphic explains the different types of credit cards to know when learning how credit cards work


Travel Rewards Credit Cards

If you journey usually — or want to journey extra — take into account a journey rewards bank card. With this card, you’ll be able to earn factors in the direction of travel-related purchases, similar to flights and accommodations. Keep in thoughts that some playing cards have ties to particular airways or accommodations the place you’ll be able to solely redeem your rewards by means of them.

Cash Back Credit Cards

With money again bank cards you’ll be able to earn money rewards on on a regular basis purchases, similar to groceries, gasoline, and on-line procuring. Some playing cards will supply an even bigger proportion of rewards for various classes, so it’s useful to choose one that gives the most important rewards for what you mostly spend on.

Student Credit Cards

Student bank cards are normally simpler to qualify for since they’re geared in the direction of faculty college students. These playing cards will assist college students construct their credit score if used responsibly, and may present rewards related to college students.

Secured Credit Cards

Secured bank cards are helpful in the event you simply began constructing your credit score, have a weak credit rating, or don’t but qualify for sure playing cards.

When you join a secured bank card, you’ll put down a safety deposit as collateral. You will be capable to use the cardboard as you usually would, and earn the deposit again by making your funds in time.

Secured bank cards are completely different from unsecured bank cards, which is able to take a look at your revenue and credit score historical past, and received’t want collateral.

How To Build Credit + Use a Credit Card Wisely

Once you’re accredited for the precise bank card for you and know the way bank cards work, it’s mandatory to make use of your bank card correctly to construct credit score rating. Here is how one can construct credit score:

Pay Your Credit Card On Time

One of crucial issues when constructing credit score is to pay your bank card on time. That’s as a result of essentially the most important issue that determines your credit score rating is your fee historical past.

The greatest solution to pay your bank card on time is to arrange automated funds or set reminders.

Aim For a Low Balance

If your bank card stability is simply too excessive, it is going to negatively have an effect on your credit score rating. To hold your bank card stability low, attempt to spend lower than 30 p.c of your credit score restrict every month. Also plan to solely spend what you’ll be able to afford to pay again.

Keep the Account Open

Your account age additionally affect your credit score rating. For that cause, hold your older bank card accounts open to assist construct your credit score rating.

Request a Credit Limit Increase

If you need to purpose for a low stability, having a better credit score restrict can assist you retain your balances under the 30 p.c that’s beneficial. You can normally request a credit score restrict improve after a 12 months of getting a bank card.

Watch Your Credit Score

It’s vital to maintain monitor of your credit score rating to know how one can enhance it. Usually, the FICO, the Fair Isaac Co., rating is essentially the most utilized by lenders, so be sure to examine it each couple of months.

Credit Card Tip

Get a free credit score rating and monitor your credit score utilizing the Mint app.

The Bottom Line

Owning a bank card is a good way to start out constructing credit score rating if used responsibly. Now that you’ve an understanding of how bank cards work and their advantages, it is time to resolve what bank card is greatest for you and begin budgeting correctly.

FAQs about Credit Cards

Understanding how bank cards work will not be straightforward, listed below are some questions you may be asking your self.

How Do Credit Cards Make Money?

For essentially the most half, bank card issuers become profitable by charging curiosity on the assertion stability. They may become profitable by charging financial institution charges, similar to late and annual charges

What Is APR?

APR, which implies annual proportion price, is basically the price of borrowing cash. It is charged on any excellent stability after the bank card’s fee due date. The common APR for bank cards is 15.56% to 22.87%.

How Do Credit Card Payments Work?

After paying with a bank card, the licensed fee will probably be added to your present stability and your out there credit score will probably be lowered by that quantity. Once the assertion stability is prepared, you should have the choice to pay a minimal quantity, the complete assertion quantity, or a customized quantity. After you repay your stability, if there’s any remaining stability within the assertion, it will likely be topic to an curiosity payment cost.

How Does Credit Card Interest Work?

A bank card curiosity is utilized to the remaining assertion stability if it isn’t paid in full. It will be calculated utilizing your bank card APR, and by discovering the typical every day price and common every day stability. A step-by-step calculation will be discovered right here.




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