It's difficult to resist the cash back offers and sign up bonuses advertised in every bank and on dozens of TV channels every day. $100 back on $500 of spending sounds like a great discount and, in many cases, it is. The right applicant under the right circumstances can take advantage of card companies' latest offers to save money on groceries, travel, restaurants, and large upcoming purchases. But it's important to be careful when applying for and opening new credit cards because doing it in the wrong way can damage a person's credit score and lower their chances of being approved in the future.

A tricky but weighty question is: how often is it okay to apply for a new card? A general suggestion is about six months between applications but, like everything that has to do with credit cards, this varies based on your credit score. Applicants with lower credit scores are required to wait a little longer between applications, to show companies that they're not a risk. Better credit scores allow applicants to apply sooner, though doing so too frequently will still hurt their score. You should also wait slightly longer if you've just been rejected by another company. Hard inquiries will almost always knock a few points off of your score. Spreading them out will avoid damaging it too much.

Be especially careful when:

  1. You're rebuilding poor credit.
  2. You've recently been rejected by another card or company.
  3. You're about to apply for a mortgage or large car loan.

Those few points that fall off of your score after an application might cost you hundreds or thousands of dollars more on a mortgage. Time your applications to avoid impacting upcoming loans.

On the other hand, the best times to apply for a credit card depend on your preferences and spending habits. If you're r building credit, consider secured cards that require a deposit but make it easier for someone without a credit history to begin one. If you already have good credit, you have the privilege of shopping around for the newest and best deals offered by credit companies.

Credit Score Range

Your smart credit habits give you options that include low interest rates, cash back rewards, sign up bonuses and more. To make the most of your new card, try to time any sign up bonuses with large, planned purchases. Often, sign up bonuses come with spending requirements, such as $500 in 60 days. If you're about to purchase a new computer, for example, you can use the new card to fulfill its spending requirement all at once and save $100 on the computer.

If you haven't changed credit cards in five or ten years, it's time to look for lower interest rates and better perks. Card companies always change what they offer to compete with each other, and it's probably better than what you signed up for a decade ago. If you're still paying an annual fee, check out the no-fee offerings, too.

Analyze your spending and shop for cards whose perks best match your habits. Travel miles aren't valuable for everyone. If you eat at restaurants several times a week, look for a card that will reward you for that. Others offer cash back bonuses on gas, groceries or categories that vary month-to-month. Shopping for cash bonuses and rewards is the fun part of having good credit.

A last word on opening a new line of credit: don't close your old card. Unless it charges an annual fee (in which case, definitely do close it), leaving that old, in-good-standing credit line open can only help your score. Credit bureaus account for the age of your credit history and credit utilization when calculating your score. Your utilization is the ratio of credit use to credit limit. Closing an old card will shorten your credit history and, simultaneously, increase your utilization by lowering your total available credit. Both of these negatives are unnecessary: if that old card doesn't cost anything, leave it open.

Your credit card might have become such a regular part of your habit that you stopped thinking about it over the years. But if you've paid it in full and on time to build that credit score into the 700s or even higher, you owe it to yourself to take another look at the card market and shop for lower rates and better deals. It's like shopping for free money—it's the least you can do to reward yourself for your smart financial habits.

Tom Twardzik is a writer covering personal finance, productivity and investing for Paypath. He also contributes pop culture pieces to Popdust, travel writing to The Journiest, product reviews to Topdust and essays to The Liberty Project. Read more on his website and follow him on Twitter.

Subscribe to PayPath Newsletter
PayPath
Follow Us on

I thought I had a pretty good handle on my finances out of school. I worked several jobs while attending university and had little to no problem managing my income. However, once I graduated, I realized how much more complicated personal accounting could really be.

There were so many variables I needed to keep track of. Biweekly bills, monthly charges, and general necessities amounted to a heap of confusing numbers that were often impossible to decipher. The funniest part was that I was actually trying to do this by hand (I don't know what I was trying to prove to myself, either).

After messing up for the 17th time, I decided to give Microsoft Excel a shot. I used Excel a bit in school and I knew all the big-wig finance people used it, so what could I possibly have to lose? The answer is about six hours of my precious time. Excel isn't much of an improvement over handwriting and it's still dependent on the user to manually input all of the information. It's like doing everything by hand with the slightest help, meaning that it still required a tremendous amount of time and concentration. Well that was all for nothing, I guess.

It's sort of funny. I was certain that I could manage my personal finances with ease, when it's practically a full-time job. I was already stressed out enough with my first job and I knew I didn't have enough time to give my finances the attention it deserved.

That's why I decided to try out a budgeting app. My best friend told me that he uses an app called Truebill to manage his finances. "What does it even mean to manage your finances?" I asked him. He told me that Truebill was the personal financial assistant I wished I could have. It could aggregate all of my account information into one place and give me specific insights and actions.

I loved the idea of having full control over my finances, especially during a time of financial uncertainty, and I realized that Truebill would be the easiest way to accomplish this. The user interface is incredibly simple and intuitive, so it doesn't even feel like a finance app! Truebill offers a multitude of features, with their most popular being the ability to cancel subscriptions with the press of a button.

Okay, I had no idea how many subscriptions I was still subscribed to. In fact, I wasn't even using a quarter of the subscription services I was signed up for. Subscription boxes, streaming services, my old gym, and even an old subscription to my favorite magazine--it was all there and I was livid. How could I let myself waste all of this money and how did I never catch this? Thank goodness for Truebill.

Truebill also offers bill negotiations. There is a 40% fee based on how much you save and Truebill even claims that there is an 85% chance that they'll be able to lower your bill once a negotiation is requested. Why wouldn't I take them up on this? There was zero risk and I would only have to pay once my bill was lowered (which means that I would be saving money regardless).

More standard features of Truebill include the ability to generate a credit report on-demand and even request a pay advance. I only used the pay advance feature once when I wanted to buy a gift for my mom, but didn't have enough cash in hand and Truebill automatically reimbursed itself when I got my next paycheck.

The credit report is another fantastic feature and practically taught me what good credit meant. Truebill's credit report basically shows you which financial decisions have the most significant impact on your credit score and ways that you can improve your credit month-over-month. I've never had such control over my credit and it feels good.

I'll be the first to admit that I was extremely naive coming out of school. I figured that as long as I was attentive, I could manage my finances with ease. We manage money to some extent throughout our entire lives, but once you're thrown out on your own, it's a completely different story. With Truebill, I've finally been able to take control over my finances and stay on top of all of my responsibilities.

Update: Our friends at Truebill are extending a special offer to our readers! Follow this link to sign-up for Truebill.