Yehey! Finally, you’ve got your credit card application approved. It’s something to celebrate, especially that hundreds of Filipinos get rejection notifs daily without knowing what went wrong with their applications, even if their gross income is above or double the minimum required.
Credit card issuers do not tell us why, but credit score is a big factor as credit bureaus such as TransUnion and CIBI, have started to penetrate the local consumer credit market and consolidated histories and reports for references of banks and credit card issuers. In other countries though, card issuers send an adverse notice, or an explanation for their decision about declined applications. Sounds fair, right?
While using credit cards comes with a multitude of advantages, so the disadvantages, you should be careful and conscious about every swipe you make with that thin piece of plastic. To help you out with this financial instrument, I have listed here some helpful tips exclusively for first-time credit card users in the Philippines.
 Learn the credit card basics. Don’t equate convenience with free money. Your credit card allows you to borrow money for purchases, especially if you don’t have a readily available cash. In other words, it’s ‘utang.’ Your bank gives you a credit limit which translates to the maximum amount you can spend with your card.
After each billing cycle, you will be issued a statement which reflects the balance to pay. If you pay it in full before the due date, there are normally no additional charges. If not, or you pay just the minimum payment required, then expect additional interest. You might want to check your credit card’s terms and conditions to know more about billing cycles, interest rates, and other charges.
 Go digital. Download the app to track your available credit limit, transactions, and payments. You may not have a regular deposit account with the issuing bank, but you can always register your card and enjoy the convenience with their mobile app. Register right away and get familiar with the features.
Other apps even come with one-swipe installment conversions of purchases hitting the minimum threshold. In all apps though, you can check instantly the available credit limit and go through a review of all transactions before the release of your monthly statements. You can also have such a relief seeing your payments making it before the due dates.
 Review your monthly e-statements. Check your itemized transactions and charges carefully, even earned points. Most credit card-issuing banks simply send monthly statements through email, hence the e-statements. Convenient as it is, you can open the password-protected PDFs anytime and anywhere you are and scan though the month’s transactions and earned points.
Should there be discrepancies or anomalies, you can make clarifications and confirmations right before the payment due dates. At the same time, you can check minimum payments required and manage payments well especially if you’re running short on your budget.
 Don’t miss payments. Schedule monthly payments ahead of the due dates and always pay in full. You might want to pay right away when your monthly e-statement becomes available. Not only that you can replenish your available credit limit, but you can also keep your credit score in good standing.
Although you have the options whether to pay in full or just the minimum amount required, better pay in full if your budget permits. If you pay only the minimum, expect additional interest to reflect on your next e-statement. If this becomes a cycle, you might end up struggling to pay off all balances with the compounding interest.
 Don’t pay your balance on the due date itself, or even a day or two before it. Posting of payments may sometimes take days. You might miss paying your balance on time and get late-payment penalties if you’re trying to hit the button right on the day itself. Different payment channels have different standard payment posting periods.
Allow a few days or a week of grace period between your payment and the due date. It is also better that you set up your credit card’s auto-payment feature if available or use your mobile calendar to set up a reminder.
 Be wise with numbers. Do some math before converting big purchases into monthly installments. Not all installments are the same. Others come with zero interest rates, as in zero and repayments even start after a month. Others come with low and high interest rates. Others even come with added processing and conversion fees.
Do the math and compute in which installment terms you can make the biggest savings from fees and interest. If you think you have extra on your budget and can settle the big purchase in full before the due date, then converting it to installment may not be a good option at all.
 Skip many offers. Don’t feel obliged to grab all offers and discounts, even credit insurances, but at least check whenever you make necessary purchases. Credit card issuers regularly notify you about offers and discounts, whether through email or SMS. They can be enticing, but check as well the required minimum spend before using your card.
You may enjoy a discount of PHP300, but you need to spend at least PHP3,000. So, you might end up with regrets going beyond your budget just for the discount. Think whether it’s worth it or not.
 Spend only what you can pay off in a month. You don’t want to live paycheck to paycheck, or worst, having your debts piling up. It’s a bad sign if you observe that you’re just receiving your salary for your credit card payments. Your expenses are a way ahead of your budget and means.
You better review your expenses and reflect on your spending habits. Try to limit your credit card use until such time that your budget and expenses are on the same lane, or you’re already making some savings.
 Think long term. Grab those NAFFL card offers while your credit account is still young. If you’ve just had your first credit card, apply for additional ones across different banks and grab the opportunities to get approved with as many no-annual-fee-for-life (NAFFL) cards as possible.
Your initial credit limit may be low and disappointing, but as multiple cards reach the desired limits, you will soon consider ditching those that come with annual membership fees. As your accounts get mature and with your good credit standing, there can be some pros and cons to consider when cancelling cards and applying for new ones. Better make wise decisions while you’ve just started with your credit accounts, and soon keep just the NAFFL cards.
 Just try it. Request an annual fee waiver. You may not have availed of the NAFFL promo with your credit card, so you’ve got to pay the annual membership fee, which for you is too much for your limited use of the card.
You might want to consider making a phone call and talk to the customer service rep of the issuing bank and request for an annual fee waiver. Normally, they waive the fee for the first year, but not for the succeeding years. If waived, that gives you a grace period to decide whether to keep the card for another year. Just make sure cancelling your card won’t hurt much your credit score.
 Don’t get desperate. Avoid cash advances and balance transfer fees. Cash advances are signs of a desperate need of cash for something emergency in nature. They may also come with special interest rates and other fees.
If you can do something, say borrow from a friend for an instant cash instead, do it. Make cash advances with your credit card as your last resort. Balance transfers also come with fees, and they’re no small amount. Make informed decisions about making balance transfers.
 Keep it just personal. As much as possible, don’t initiate other people’s use of your credit card for their own purchases, even family members. You don’t want to cover the payments of other people’s purchases or get into arguments for delayed payments, or no payments at all. In the first place, you don’t have the control over other people’s finances, and you can’t always force them to pay if they can’t. Better keep your credit card exclusively for your own use.
Rather than having them ride on your credit card, encourage them to get their own. You can even earn incentives upon making referrals. Not only that you avoid future complications, but you also teach them to get accountable for their financial decisions.
 Use your credit card. Don’t just keep it in your wallet. While it is advised not to go beyond your credit limit to avoid penalties or beyond a decent credit utilization ratio, not using the credit card at all has equal disadvantages.
You don’t want to get your account dormant. Credit card issuers want to see how you make use of your credit limit so for them to decide whether to give you an increase over months or a year of using it. If you are too frugal, and you really avoid making unnecessary purchases with your credit card, then at least have your bills payments with it.
 Keep you credit utilization low. Discipline yourself. Your credit card comes with perks, and so responsibilities. You have to take your credit card and your credit score seriously as part of your financial journey. As you become disciplined with your use of credit card and you keep your credit utilization at an ideal ratio, your card issuer will soon prize you with higher credit limit. You can then make use of this opportunity for other financial goals such as making big loans.
Credit cards, if not managed with prudence, will result in splurging and further, in bad debts. When you default on your credit card, you get the worst headaches with collection and legal notices, plus it’s gonna be a real struggle recovering from a bad credit history.
 Don’t fall prey to scams. Keep your CVV and other credit card details private and safe. You know the rule — never ever share your credit card verification value number (CVV) and the transaction’s one-time password (OTP) to anybody else.
With your credit card, your contact details may have leaked, and from time to time, you may receive phone calls for special card offers and even credit card scams. Especially if the caller uses regular mobile digits, and not landline numbers, that you should suspect its identity and purpose.
 Double check the indicated amount in every sales slip. It’s not just a piece of paper. When you’re using your credit card at physical stores and establishments, always observe how your card is swiped by the cashier. Transaction errors or cancellations may happen, and you should know how these happen and can be resolved.
Equally, check your card if it is really yours before returning it to your wallet. Keep the sales slips for sometime in your bag. You might need them should there be discrepancies soon you check your billed transactions in the app.
 Don’t forget to redeem rewards. Enjoy the perks of your credit card. One good thing about owning a credit card is that you earn points, well in most cases. Other cards, though, do not earn points in exchange for the NAFFL promo.
If you’ve earned thousands of or more points already, you might want to check how to redeem them or what rewards await you for these. You may enjoy big discounts, cashbacks, and other forms of rewards.
 Check your credit report and score. You also need to monitor your credit position and find out if credit card transactions are accurately reported and recorded. You may check your credit reports with TransUnion or CIBI once a year. By doing so, you can detect credit reporting mistakes and inaccuracies that may possibly be hurting your credit score. If these exist, then you can process disputes and demand corrections.
Regular checking of credit reports can also help you become more aware of what financial institutions and lenders may see in your credit history should you plan to make bigger loans. You then understand your current credit position.
 Make it business. Use your credit card for business or any other income-generating purposes. If you are into online selling, then you may use your credit card to pay your suppliers and so replenish your stocks.
However, be careful with others’ purchases with your card as these may cause repayment problems and sort of headaches in the future. Small interest you earn from your friend may not be worth it at all.
In the end, your first credit card can build your credit score — or ruin it.