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NerdWallet’s Best Credit Card Tips, October 2015

Credit Card Basics, Credit Cards
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NerdWallet’s Best Credit Card Tips, October 2015

October’s here, and you know what that means: apple picking, pumpkin spice lattes and … more NerdWallet credit card tips!

Every month, the Nerds round up a new set of tips to help you maximize rewards and minimize costs with each swipe. Here are our tips for October 2015:

1. Get a credit card with a sign-up bonus

Many credit card issuers offer sign-up bonuses as lucrative incentives for new customers to apply for and ultimately use their cards. Securing what can sometimes be a $100-$500 bonus (in cash or points) generally means spending a certain amount on your card within a one- to four-month window. With the holiday season approaching, snagging a card with a sign-up bonus now might make hitting the spending threshold within the next few months a breeze. And, if you hit the spending minimum before December, you could have a nice chunk of cash to spend on gifts for family and friends.

» MORE: 7 credit card tips everyone should know

2. Find out ‘Where You Stand’ credit-wise

The question “Am I using my credit wisely?” often can’t be answered with a simple yes or no — nor would a simple yes or no help you understand what you can do to improve your credit.

NerdWallet recently introduced its “Where Do I Stand” tool to help people evaluate how healthy their credit behaviors are, identify areas where they can improve and see how they stack up against their peers. Answer six simple credit-related questions to find out how much you really know about credit and, more important, how well you’re using that knowledge.

At the end of the quiz, users get a “Where Do I Stand” grade (A-F) along with a number of customized credit tips based on the answers they’ve given. So whether you’re a credit expert or are just getting started, “Where Do I Stand” acts as a barometer for credit know-how while adding suggestions on how you can improve your credit moving forward.

3. Set up mobile payment on your phone

Mobile payment technology doesn’t just make paying with credit cards easier. It makes it safer too.

Using a process called tokenization, mobile payment apps like Apple Pay, Android Pay and Samsung Pay don’t actually transmit the 16-digit number printed on your credit card when transacting with a merchant. When you pay with your phone, an encrypted (or tokenized) number exists in place of your account number. What this means is that if a merchant’s point-of-sale system is compromised, your information can’t be used for fraudulent transactions in the way a traditional credit card number can.

Most mobile payment apps also require a fingerprint or passcode prior to transaction, so even if you lose your phone, it’d be near impossible for a fraudster to steal your money.

No, not all merchants in the U.S. are set up to accept mobile payments, which require a near field communication technology. But with the October EMV liability shift finally upon us, customers will start to see more and more of this technology available in the places they shop every day.

» MORE: Browse more of NerdWallet’s best credit card tips

Kevin Cash is a staff writer for NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: kcash@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: kevin_cash. 


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