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Tips for using a credit card responsibly and effectively

If you're setting out to get your first credit card in Pennsylvania -- or even if you've been using cards for years and you're just getting another one -- it's important to know how to use the cards well, helping you get the most out of them. Below are a few key tips.

-- Look at the terms to find the right card. For instance, some cards offer a reward in the first month, but you have to put $4,000 on the card that month to get the reward. If you only have a monthly budget of $3,000, even if the reward offer is great, this may not be the best choice.

-- Remember that your card is a short-term loan. If you pay off the balance and have no annual fee, it's a free loan. If you leave a balance, though, that's when interest kicks in. Even if you stop using the card, but you leave a balance and don't pay it off, the total owed will rise.

-- When paying the card off, make sure you know the due date for at least the minimum amount you have to pay. Online payment options have made it much easier to pay on time than it used to be, but you still want to circle this date on the calendar every month.

-- Remember to consider credit transfers. These are useful if you already have debt. For instance, you may have $10,000 on another card, and you're paying 18 percent in interest. If a card gives you two years of interest free payments, transferring your $10,000 over can save you the interest for 24 months, which may make it possible to pay off the balance.

These are just a few tips, but they show how complex and useful cards can be. If you do run into problems, though, don't feel alone; most Americans have debt. Just be sure you know all of your options for debt relief, such as bankruptcy, consolidation, credit transfers and more.

Source: Time, "15 Credit Card Do’s and Don’ts," Taylor Tepper, accessed Aug. 29, 2016

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