How to Gracefully Use Your Credit Card’s Grace Period

Have your relatives or financial pundits scared you away from credit cards? Have they described credit cards as almost taking on lives of their own, becoming creatures in your wallet which consume products and spit out debt, quickly becoming too much to clean up? Do you feel nervous around credit cards, like they are not to be trusted?

Credit cards are just tools—neither good, nor bad—and for hesitant folk, or those who don’t yet qualify for a credit card, secured credit cards are one of the best tools to have. While you can stick to a cash-only way of life if that works for you, this will never help you to build up your credit score. If you ever want a business loan, a student loan, a car loan, a mortgage… you’re going to need a good credit score. Rather than shying away from credit tools, you’re better off understanding how money, credit, debt and savings work and using your credit card thoughtfully, reaping the rewards and benefits attached to the card, and never having to pay any interest.

Wait—never paying interest? Yes, and it’s no trick!

Every credit card has a grace period, and certain credit cards let you reap rewards and benefits at no extra cost. The grace period is the time between when your bill is issued and when your bill payment is due. Any purchases made during that time and paid for before the bill payment is due are interest-free purchases. This allows you to take advantage of the rewards or benefits you may have attached to your credit card, without actually paying more for your purchases than the original price. If, however, you use your credit card for cash advances, either at an ATM or by transferring money from your credit card to your savings account, or if you do not pay your total monthly account balance in full, you will be charged interest on this (and sometimes additional fees, too).

Use your credit card often and pay the balance before the due date each month and you will be gaining travel miles or whatever other rewards or benefits your card grants you, as well as showing creditors that you can manage credit responsibly.

Remember: a credit card is just a tool, and using it can be as graceful or as difficult an experience as you make it.