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Credit Card Basics for Millennials

Millennials frequently face financial issues for two major reasons: they are entering the workforce during an economic downturn and are often uninformed about how credit works. You may not be able to do anything about the economy personally, but you can take charge of your finances by learning the smart way to use credit cards.

Know your credit limit. A third of millennials in one Experian survey did not know their cards' spending limits and 30 percent had maxed out a credit card. Carrying a high balance hurts your credit score, as lenders are wary of borrowers who use most of their available credit.

Try to pay off your cards in full each month. This avoids interest charges and helps to improve your credit. Ideally you should be using less than 25 percent of your available credit at a given time.

Understand how interest accrues. Over 50 percent of young people surveyed did not know their interest rates. Additionally, keep in mind that while purchase interest is waived when paid off at the end of the month, interest from cash advances is not.

Make payments on time. Late credit card payments hurt your credit score. In fact, payment history is the biggest contributor to your FICO score. Only payments that are late by 30 days really count, though. Payments that are late by less than 30 days do not show up on your credit card score. However, it still behooves you to pay on time; creditors often charge steep late fees or raise interest rates in response to late payments.

Check your credit report regularly. Many millennials think credit reports are unnecessary. However, your report will give you ideas of where you need the most improvement and alert you to possible problems like identity theft. Always remember to take advantage of the three free credit reports that Americans are entitled to each year. Additionally, keep in mind that these free reports in no way negatively impact your credit score. As many as 25 percent of millennials believe this misinformation.

Negotiate for better rates. Many young people are surprised to find out that most credit card companies will often waive late fees or reduce interest rates when asked. This is why less than half as many millennials request waived fees compared to the average adult, and only 3 percent ask for lower interest rates. A whopping 19 percent of adults take this initiative.

Following these tips will help you boost your credit and help get your finances back on track.

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