ACCC Offers Advice on How to Become Credit Card Smart to New Users

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National nonprofit American Consumer Credit Counseling offers guidance on what consumers should do with their first credit card

Become credit card smart

By understanding how a credit card works, consumers can gain important financial knowledge and take the first step to establishing good credit. In an effort to help educate consumers, national nonprofit American Consumer Credit Counseling is offering advice on what consumers should do with their first credit card.

“Opening that first credit card is a big decision and a major milestone. It’s important that consumers become credit smart so they understand the terms and the responsibilities associated with it,” said Steve Trumble, President and CEO of American Consumer Credit Counseling, which is based in Newton, MA. “If you use them responsibly, credit cards are a good way build credit, which will be important when it comes time to make a big purchase such as buying a house or a car.”

It is extremely important that new credit card holders are knowledgeable so they do not make financial mistakes that result in unnecessary debt. According to Value Penguin’s 2016 Average Credit Card Debt in America study, the total outstanding consumer debt in the United States is $3.4 trillion. A total of 38 percent of all households carry credit card debt, with an average of $5,700.

American Consumer Credit Counseling provides consumers with advice on how to be successful with their first credit card:

1.    What is it? – Although a credit card looks like a debit card, it is much different. Using a credit card to make a purchase is similar to taking out a short-term loan that should be paid at the end of the billing cycle.

2.    Unsecured vs. secured – Secured cards are backed by cash as collateral to eliminate the risk of nonpayment. Unsecured cards have a limit based on income and credit history and are not backed by collateral, which makes them more risky to lenders.

3.    Understand what a credit report is – A credit report outlines a detailed account of a person’s financial history. The credit reports also show personal information such as date of birth, past and present addresses, social security number, employment history, collection accounts, inquiries, credit contact information, consumer statements, public records, payment history, and account summaries. The Fair and Accurate Credit Transaction Act entitles consumers to one free credit report each year from each of the three main credit bureaus. Consumers can request copies of their reports by visiting the website

4.    Know the terms of the card – Make sure you learn about the interest rates, payment schedule and any fees associated with the card. Interest rates can vary widely, as can fees, and these costs can add up quickly if you’re not aware.

5.    Start with a low limit – Build credit by managing the limit and keeping it low until you can handle an increase responsibly. Maintaining a low limit will also help guard against the temptation to overspend.

6.    Pay on time and in full – Build good credit by paying your credit card bill on time each month. It is also smart to pay the bill in full in order to avoid unnecessary interest charges and falling into debt.

7.    Know your credit score – Be sure to know and monitor your credit score, as it represents the information on your credit report. The most common scoring system is called a FICO score and ranges anywhere from 300 to 850.

ACCC is a 501(c)3 organization that provides free credit counseling, bankruptcy counseling, and housing counseling to consumers nationwide in need of financial literacy education and money management. For more information, contact ACCC:

  •     For credit counseling, call 800-769-3571
  •     For bankruptcy counseling, call 866-826-6924
  •     For housing counseling, call 866-826-7180
  •     Or visit us online at

About American Consumer Credit Counseling
American Consumer Credit Counseling (ACCC) is a nonprofit credit counseling 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to empowering consumers to achieve financial management through credit counseling, debt management, bankruptcy counseling, housing counseling, student loan counseling and financial education concerning debt solutions. In order to help consumers reach their goal of debt relief, ACCC provides a range of free consumer personal finance resources on a variety of topics including budgeting, credit and debt management, student loan assistance, youth and money, homeownership, identity theft, senior living and retirement. Consumers can use ACCC’s worksheets, videos, calculators, and blog articles to make the best possible decisions regarding their financial future. ACCC holds an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau and is a member of the National Foundation for Credit Counseling® (NFCC®). For more information or to access free financial education resources, log on to or visit

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Marissa Sullivan
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