There are few things that are so often misunderstood as credit cards. That might be because everyone talking about credit cards has their own agenda, from selling them to trying to convince you to use their alternatives. And while consumers are right to be skeptical of all manner of outlandish claims, there are some myths that need to be set aside once and for all.
These Are The Most Common Credit Card Myths
1. Having credit cards will hurt your credit.
This belief is no more true than the statement that owning hammers will hurt your thumb. The truth is that when used responsibly, credit cards will add positive information to your credit report and improve your credit score. Using your cards responsibly means paying your bills on-time and carrying little if any debt.
2. Earning credit card rewards is bad for your credit.
It comes as a surprise to many that your credit card issuer doesn’t report whether or not you earn rewards. It doesn’t matter if you have a premium rewards card or simple, "no annual fee" card that doesn’t offer any rewards, the only things that are reported to the consumer credit bureaus are your balance and payment history. Nothing else matters.
3. You can have great credit by avoiding credit cards.
In the aftermath of the Great Recession and the corresponding credit crisis, many Americans came to believe that credit cards were bad and that avoiding them was the key to having a great credit score. But by avoiding both credit cards and other forms of credit, these consumers were left without any significant credit history, and thus a low credit score (or perhaps none at all). This strategy allows you to avoid debt, but it can also prevent you from getting a car loan or a home mortgage when you need one.
4. Credit card issuers don’t like customers who pay their balance in full.
This popular belief is easily disproven by the example of American Express. Many cards, like the American Express® Gold Card and The Platinum Card® from American Express are charge cards, which require you to pay your balance in full each month (although you now have the option to enable “Pay Over Time” for some purchases). So in some cases, cardholders encourage you to pay your balance in full. Those who do are often both the ones that spend the most while presenting the lowest risk of default. Instead of profiting from interest charges, card issuers earn plenty of money from merchant fees they receive from each purchase.
5. You should never close your oldest credit card.
It’s true that length of credit is a factor in your credit score, albeit a small one. But if you close your oldest credit card, the account will still stay on your credit history and be considered in the average age of your accounts. This could be valuable advice for young adults, recent immigrants and others with and extremely short credit history. Most people who believe this already have an extensive credit history, and closing an account won’t damage it.