Credit cards are convenient, readily available and almost frighteningly easy to use. Put those qualities together, and they can also be extremely dangerous.

Credit cards are the financial equivalent to a loaded gun. In the hands of someone experienced, knowledgeable and with a cool head, they are quite safe and occasionally necessary. But if you don’t know what you’re doing, and if you don’t appreciate the power and consequences in your hands, things can go south rather quickly.

Here are a few of the most common mistakes with credit card debt. Don’t be this person.

Late or Minimum Payments

The drawbacks of making late payments are known to nearly all of us; we’ve seen that annoying fee on our bill. But minimum payments can also be a drag on our credit card balance.

If you get into the habit of only making the minimum payment, then you’ll likely start racking up a lot of interest in the long run. It’s better to look at your income, look at your monthly payment and figure out the largest sum that you can put toward your debt. It will pay off, literally, in the long run.

Keeping a High Balance as Related to Available Credit

Your credit score doesn’t just reflect on-time and late payments; it also gives prospective lenders an idea of the balance that you’re keeping compared to your credit limit. And it’s not wise to push that boundary.

Rewards-Oriented Spending

It’s a great feeling when you log on to check your balance and realize you’ve got a well of untapped rewards points on your statement. But it’s vital to know what those rewards are designed for and how they’re used best.

Rewards programs aren’t the credit card company’s version of a birthday present. They have an agenda, and it’s to encourage more spending on the part of the consumer. The smart credit card user should treat rewards as incidental, a nice little coincidence that you discover every couple of months. Because if you spend a certain amount in order to reach a predetermined point total, you could end up paying way more in fees than if you had just purchased the item or miles outright.

Avoiding these common mistakes can’t guarantee a perfect credit report and blissful, bankruptcy-free credit card existence. But they can get you on the right path.

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