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13 Things You Should Know About Credit Cards

What have your credit cards done for you lately? Our financial experts reveal 13 ways to max out the benefits of your credit cards.

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1. Many credit card companies offer extended warranties.

Many credit card companies offer extended warranties on merchandise-such as that new flat screen-for up to a year beyond the manufacturer’s guarantee. Restrictions may apply, so call your credit card provider to find out about exclusions.

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2. Check for pre-sale deals.

The key to sitting front row at Cher’s next farewell tour might be in your wallet. Credit card companies often have pre-sale deals on tickets to events-from concerts to sports matches. You might have to upgrade to a higher limit or status (along with an annual fee), but the savings could be worth it.

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3. Keep an eye on sales.

Your provider might offer a price protection policy: if you buy an item at full ticket value and it goes on sale within 60 days, you may get reimbursed for the difference by your credit card company. You’ll need proof of purchase and a record of the new price.

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4. Put your negotiation skills to use.

If you’re having trouble making credit card payments, ask about having your interest rate reduced. But do your homework first: compare your card with others so that you’re armed with a bargaining chip.

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5. Swipe cautiously.

In 2008, an American study revealed that buyers were more likely to overspend on luxuries when using credit cards or gift cards rather than cash. Shoppers have a harder time perceiving purchases on plastic as real money spent.

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6. Access to credit gives our brains a buzz.

Peter C. Whybrow, the director of the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at UCLA, suggests thinking about the reasons why you’re shopping-and ensuring you’re not doing it just because it feels good-to avoid spending impulses.

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7. Frequently missing payment deadlines?

Avoid late credit card payment penalties by arranging to have your balance settled automatically every month. Call your bank or check online to set up the service.

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8. Use your credit card to improve your credit rating.

Did you know you can charge your way to a better credit score? A person with no credit history is often considered the same as someone with poor credit, says Jacob MacDonald from Consolidated Credit Counseling Services of Canada.

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9. Play the field.

Each company offers different benefits, so you may get perks-like preferred rates or rewards-by switching from one credit card provider to another. “But if you’re someone who struggles to pay your monthly balance, fancy travel rewards aren’t worth extra fees,” MacDonald says.

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10. That said, loyalty matters.

Unless there’s a reason you need to switch, stick with what you know. Your credit score is partly based on the length of time you’ve had your card-the longer, the better.

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11. Pay your credit card fees in smaller increments.

Paying your fees weekly may help you keep better track of funds and facilitate reaching a zero balance every month, MacDonald says.

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12. A minimum payment should be just that.

The minimum payment is the amount you must pay in order to avoid having your credit score harmed or your interest rate spike. With some cards imposing a rate of almost 30 per cent, you might want to consider a credit line (with prime rates around 2.7 per cent) for your next big purchase.

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13. Tap credit counselling resources if necessary.

If you find yourself in debt, there’s help-and advice is often free. Non-profit organizations, like the Credit Counselling Society, can offer tips on how to pay it off or manage your creditors.

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