Credit Card Expert Roundup #43 - What's the most significant thing that most people overlook about their credit or credit cards?
What's the most significant thing that most people overlook about their credit or credit cards? That's the question that Jason Steele asks the group of experts who joined us for the 43rd Edition of the Roundup series. Here are their list of responses and it isn't surprising that there is some level of overlap:
Ben Luthi - Credit card expert and a freelance personal finance writer
This may be low-hanging fruit, but I'd say one of the most significant things I overlook with my credit cards are the insurance protections. More issuers are dropping things like price and purchase protection, but if your card still offers those perks, don't forget about it.
The reason it's so hard to take advantage of these benefits is that you have to do all the legwork. Even the average household may buy hundreds of items per month, and it's not easy to keep track of price changes or remember that you're covered if something breaks.
Even if you don't remember all the time, it's definitely important to keep these benefits in mind with big-ticket items. I bought an iPhone during the summer a couple of years ago knowing that its price would drop when Apple announced its new lineup, so I held onto the receipt and submitted the claim as soon as the price changed. It wasn't a ton of money, but if you can use these perks consistently and with large purchases, you could get hundreds of dollars back each year.
Michelle Black - Credit expert and owner of CreditWriter.com
The most important thing people overlook about credit is the importance of checking their credit reports often. Many people get that their credit scores are a big deal. They can affect your ability to get a loan, qualify for a credit card, and even secure a place to live.
However, a lot of people believe that if they just pay their bills on time they'll be okay in the credit score department. That's not always true.
Errors wind up on credit reports all the time — sometimes because of a mistake and other times due to fraud. The Federal Trade Commission released a study a few years ago which found that 20% of consumers had a mistake on at least one of their credit reports.
Credit reporting mistakes have the potential to damage your credit scores, even if you're doing everything else right. It's bad enough to try to fight back from credit problems when you make a mistake or go through a tough life event (i.e. illness, a death in the family, job loss, etc.). But having your credit damaged because of something someone else did wrong brings a whole new level of frustration.
The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) does give you the right to expect accurate credit reports. Yet the responsibility falls on you to sound the alarm when there's a problem. This means you have to keep an eye on all three of your reports from Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian frequently. (I recommend you check them once a month.)
You have to be proactive when it comes to your credit, and that starts with checking your reports. If you discover an error, the FCRA steps in again and gives you the right to dispute the mistake with the credit bureaus. But, again, you have to be the one to initiate the dispute process.
Louis DeNicola - Personal finance writer who works with Fortune 500 financial services firms, FinTech startups, and non-profits to help promote financial literacy.
I think people often overlook the fact that it may take some time to build credit or improve their scores.
It’s easy to forget about credit until you need something: to buy a home, take out an auto loan, move to a new apartment, etc. These can be sudden needs, and if you don’t already have good to excellent credit it may be difficult (and more expensive) to get approved for a loan or lease. Learning about what impacts your credit and taking action early can be an important part of managing your personal finances.
Jason Steele - Journalist who specializes in covering credit cards, travel, and rewards points
I think that people get bogged down in the minutiae of the credit score. So many people debate the merits of various levels of debt to credit ratios, or whether it will hurt their credit to cancel a particular card. In the end, if you pay your bills on time, and carry little if any debt, then it’s pretty much impossible not to have excellent credit. All the rest is just details.
These details can be important if you’re credit is on the border of good and excellent, or if you’re trying to improve it quickly. But if you already have excellent credit, just pay your bills on-time and avoid debt, and you’ll never have a problem regardless of how many credit cards you have or don’t have, or how old the accounts are.
Matt Listro - President of National Credit Fixers
I think the most significant thing people overlook on their Credit cards are the insurance and protection perks. Many people are unaware of some of these perks that may be available to them on cards that in their wallet right now! Everyone should check to see what perks their cards may have. You may be surprised to find out that your card has purchase protection which may give you protection from damage of theft of purchase items, price protection which could get you money back if an item you purchase is offered for a lower price elsewhere. Another big perk is rental car collision coverage. Just by renting with your credit card – could get you collision coverage automatically with some cards.
Another perk offered by some premium travel cards is trip cancelation insurance. Other cards offer delayed/lost baggage coverage if your luggage is lost or delayed. One card even offers sell phone damage and theft protection as long as you are paying the monthly bill with the card. Everyone should either examine the details of their cardholder agreements or simply call the card issuer and ask what perks and insurances are offered with their cards!