10 worst credit card mistakes

Be sure to read the fine print, and pay your balance on time.

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Frustrated young man holding his head with a pile of credit cards and a calculator

There are many advantages to having a credit card but when used improperly, you can easily become mired in something very costly that has grown out of your control. Learn about the common mistakes people make and take note of these best practices to get the most from your credit card.

Credit card mistakes & best practices

As useful as credit cards can be, anyone making the following credit card mistakes is going to cost themselves money and may even land themselves in some serious financial difficulties. Pay attention to the best practices to make sure you’re maximizing the benefits of your credit card. These are the 10 worst credit card mistakes you can make:

1. Paying interest.

If you keep an unpaid balance in your card, in other words you spend more than what you can pay off each month, you will be charged interest on your purchases and interest is just money down the drain. Interest compounds and grows quickly, meaning that if you’re not careful it doesn’t take long to get into unmanageable debt with a credit card.

  • How to avoid it?
    Pay off your entire statement balance each month or get a 0% intro APR credit card. This way you can enjoy the perks of a credit card without the unnecessary expense of interest.

2. Making cash-equivalent transactions.

When you take cash out of an ATM or make gambling transactions on your credit card, you will almost always be charged a cash advance fee and interest will accrue at the higher cash advance rate starting from the day you make the transaction.

  • How to avoid it?
    Unless it’s an emergency, don’t use your credit card for cash-equivalent transactions. If it is an emergency and you do need to do so, pay it off as soon as you can to avoid as much of the financial penalty as you can. If you frequently need to take out cash advances, compare cards with low rates, or get a card with a 0% intro cash advance APR.

3. Spending for rewards.

Credit cards entice you to spend more with bonus points and rewards for your spending. It’s tempting to buy things you don’t need or haven’t budgeted for when points are in the picture.

  • How to avoid it?
    Buy what you need and what you’ve budgeted for. If you’re paying more for the card in annual fees than what you’re earning in rewards, consider a card more suited to your budget and spending style.

4. Holding too many credit cards.

This can be an issue if you can’t keep track of your spending and balance payments.

  • How to avoid it?
    Choose which credit card(s) serve you best and cancel the rest. You’ll be able to keep track of your spending and make the most of your cards and related perks. Keep in mind, closing your cards may affect your credit score.

5. Maxing out your credit card.

Spending right up to your credit limit can make you look like a risky borrower and may decrease your creditworthiness and cost you overdraft fees.

  • How to avoid it?
    You don’t have to wait for your statement to arrive to pay off some of your balance. Pay some of it down before you add more charges to keep you from maxing out. But if your credit limit is too low for your income, consider requesting a credit limit increase.

6. Keeping a high-interest debt.

If you’ve racked up credit card debt and are struggling to pay it off, keeping it on a high-interest credit card can cost you an unnecessarily high amount of interest.

7. Not immediately reporting a lost or stolen card.

If you’ve misplaced your credit card or suspect it may have been stolen, it is your responsibility to take action. Not doing so could at best create a major headache, or at worst leave you liable for fraudulent transactions.

  • How to avoid it?
    Even if you find it later in an old jean pocket, it is safer to call your bank and let them know. Sometimes, you can block the credit card without having to completely cancel it.

8. Not checking your statements and recent transactions.

Pay with plastic and you can bury the price and repayment deep in your mind, and adapt a ‘pay now, worry later’ attitude.

  • How to avoid it?
    Most credit cards these days are linked to banking apps accessible on your smartphone. Periodically check your transactions to stay on top of your balance and pick up on any unnecessary or fraudulent transactions.

9. Not reading the fine print.

This can be a terrible mistake. The fine print contains your rewards program, and fees and interest. Missing out on this important info can cost you money.

  • How to avoid it?
    Read through the terms and conditions, check out product reviews or call the bank to ask questions. Make sure you understand what you’re getting, how to get it and what you need to pay.

10. Failing to compare credit card offers

There are hundreds of credit cards on the market and choosing one without doing your research could lead to a rejected application or the acquisition of a credit card that doesn’t suit you.

  • How to avoid it?
    Make sure to consider the annual fee, interest rate, promotional offers, any rewards programs and other perks like travel insurance or purchase protection.

Compare credit cards

Now that you know what mistakes to avoid, you might feel more prepared to get a card or add to the cards you already have. Compare some credit cards to find the best one for you.

Name Product Purchase Interest Rate Cash Advance Rate Annual Fee Minimum Income Benefits with this card Description
American Express Cobalt Card
19.99%
21.99%
$120
N/A
Earn 5 Membership Rewards points per $1 spent at eligible grocery stores, restaurants, bars, cafés and food delivery services, and earn 2 Membership Rewards points per $1 spent at eligible gas stations, and on transit and travel purchases, and earn 1 Membership Rewards point per $1 spent elsewhere. Terms apply
Earn up to 30,000 Membership Rewards points in your first year.
BMO World Elite Mastercard
19.99%
22.99%
$0 annual fee for the first year ($150 thereafter)
$80,000
Get 3 BMO Rewards points per $1 spent on eligible travel, dining and entertainment purchases (up to $50,000 spend annually), and get 2 BMO Rewards points per $1 spent on all other eligible purchases (and once you reach the $50,000 annual spend).
Get up to $575 in value in your first year. Get a bonus of 40,000 BMO Rewards points ($285 travel value booked on bmorewards.com). Plus, get the $150 annual fee waived in the first year.
SimplyCash Preferred Card from American Express
19.99%
21.99%
$99
N/A
Earn 2% cash back on all eligible purchases
Earn 10% cash back on all eligible purchases (up to $400 in cash back) for the first four months of Cardmembership.
BMO Preferred Rate Mastercard
12.99%
12.99%
$20
$15,000
Take advantage of an introductory balance transfer offer, annual fee waiver in the first year, and low purchase and cash advance interest rates.
Get a rate of 3.99% on balance transfers for 9 months with a 1% transfer fee. Plus, get the $20 annual fee waived in the first year.
Tangerine Money-Back Credit Card
1.95% intro APR for the first , 19.95% thereafter
19.95%
$0
$12,000
Earn 2% cash back in two categories of your choice (or three categories if you open a Tangerine Savings Account and directly deposit your cash back into the account), and 0.5% cash back on everything else.
Get a 1.95% interest rate on balance transfers for the first six months (valid within the first 30 days of account opening).
American Express AIR MILES Platinum Credit Card
20.99%
21.99%
$120
N/A
Earn 1 AIR MILE for every $5 spent on eligible food, drink, gas and transit purchases (up to an annual spend of $30,000), and earn 1 AIR MILE for every $10 spent on all other eligible purchases (and after the $30,000 annual spend)
Earn a Welcome Bonus of 2,000 AIR MILES when you spend at least $1,500 in eligible purchases within the first three months.
American Express Business Edge Card
19.99%
21.99%
$99
N/A
Earn 3 Membership Rewards points for every $1 spent on eligible business essentials including office supplies, electronics, rides, gas, eats and drinks (up to an annual earn of 75,000 Membership Rewards), and earn 1 Membership Reward point for every $1 spent on all other eligible purchases
Earn up to 42,000 Membership Rewards points in your first year. Earn a Welcome Bonus of 30,000 Membership Rewards points when you spend at least $5,000 on eligible purchases within the first three months, and earn 1,000 Membership Rewards points each month (a total of 12,000 annually) when you spend a minimum of $3,000 on eligible purchases
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Name Product Purchase Interest Rate Balance Transfer Rate Balance Transfer Fee Annual Fee Minimum Income Reward Description
BMO Preferred Rate Mastercard
12.99%
3.99% for the first 9 months (then 12.99%)
1%
$20
$15,000
Take advantage of an introductory balance transfer offer, annual fee waiver in the first year, and low purchase and cash advance interest rates.
Get a rate of 3.99% on balance transfers for 9 months with a 1% transfer fee. Plus, get the $20 annual fee waived in the first year.
Tangerine Money-Back Credit Card
1.95% intro APR for the first , 19.95% thereafter
1.95% for the first 6 months (then 19.95%)
3%
$0
$12,000
Earn 2% cash back in two categories of your choice (or three categories if you open a Tangerine Savings Account and directly deposit your cash back into the account), and 0.5% cash back on everything else.
Get a 1.95% interest rate on balance transfers for the first six months (valid within the first 30 days of account opening).
No-Fee Scotiabank Value Visa Card
16.99%
3.99% for the first 6 months (then 16.99%)
N/A
$0
$12,000
Save with a low interest rate, no annual fee and a balance transfer offer.
Get a 3.99% introductory interest rate on balance transfers with a 0% balance transfer fee for the first 6 months. Apply by October 31, 2020.
BMO Rewards Mastercard
19.99%
1.99% for the first 9 months (then 22.99%)
1%
$0
$15,000
Get 1 BMO Reward point for every $1 spent on eligible purchases, and get 2 BMO Rewards points for every $1 spent at participating National Car Rental and Alamo Rent A Car locations.
Get a bonus of 15,000 BMO Rewards points. Plus, get a rate of 1.99% on balance transfers for 9 months. A 1% fee applies to transferred balances.
BMO AIR MILES Mastercard
19.99%
1.99% for the first 9 months (then 22.99%)
1%
$0
$15,000
Get 2 AIR MILES for every $20 spent at eligible AIR MILES partners, and get 1 AIR MILE for every $20 spent elsewhere. Get 5x the Miles at Shell until December 31, 2020.
Get 950 AIR MILES Bonus Miles (enough for $100 towards purchases with AIR MILES Cash). Plus, get 5x the Miles at Shell until December 31, 2020. Get a rate of 1.99% on balance transfers for 9 months. A 1% fee applies to transferred balances.
BMO CashBack Mastercard
19.99%
1.99% for the first 9 months (then 22.99%)
1%
$0
$15,000
Earn 3% cash back on groceries, 1% on recurring bill payments and 0.5% on all other eligible purchases.
Get 5% cash back on all eligible purchases in the first three months of card membership (up to a maximum spend of $2,000, and earn 3% cash back on groceries, 1% on recurring bill payments and 0.5% on all other eligible purchases thereafter). Plus, get a rate of 1.99% on balance transfers with a 1% balance transfer fee for nine months.
BMO AIR MILES Mastercard For Students
19.99%
1.99% for the first 9 months (then 22.99%)
1%
$0
$15,000
Earn 2 AIR MILES for every $20 spent at eligible AIR MILES partners, and earn 1 AIR MILE for every $20 spent elsewhere. Get 5x the Miles at Shell until December 31, 2020.
Get 950 AIR MILES Bonus Miles (enough for $100 towards purchases with AIR MILES Cash). Plus, get 5x the Miles at Shell until December 31, 2020. Get a 1.99% introductory interest rate on balance transfers for 9 months. A 1% fee applies to balance amounts transferred.
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Compare up to 4 providers

Name Product Purchase Interest Rate Cash Advance Rate Annual Fee Minimum Income Benefits with this card Description
American Express Cobalt Card
19.99%
21.99%
$120
N/A
Earn 5 Membership Rewards points per $1 spent at eligible grocery stores, restaurants, bars, cafés and food delivery services, and earn 2 Membership Rewards points per $1 spent at eligible gas stations, and on transit and travel purchases, and earn 1 Membership Rewards point per $1 spent elsewhere. Terms apply
Earn up to 30,000 Membership Rewards points in your first year.
American Express AIR MILES Platinum Credit Card
20.99%
21.99%
$120
N/A
Earn 1 AIR MILE for every $5 spent on eligible food, drink, gas and transit purchases (up to an annual spend of $30,000), and earn 1 AIR MILE for every $10 spent on all other eligible purchases (and after the $30,000 annual spend)
Earn a Welcome Bonus of 2,000 AIR MILES when you spend at least $1,500 in eligible purchases within the first three months.
BMO AIR MILES World Elite Mastercard
19.99%
22.99%
$0 annual fee for the first year ($120 thereafter)
$80,000
Get 1 AIR MILE for every $10 spent on eligible purchases and get 5x the Miles at Shell until December 31, 2020.
Earn a bonus of up to 2,000 AIR MILES. Terms apply. Plus, get the annual fee of $120 waived in the first year. Get 5x the Miles at Shell until December 31, 2020.
Marriott Bonvoy American Express Card
19.99%
21.99%
$120
N/A
Receive 5 Marriott Bonvoy™ points per dollar spent on eligible purchases at participating Marriott Bonvoy™ properties and 2 points on all other spend. Terms apply
Receive 50,000 bonus Marriott Bonvoy™ points when you charge $1,500 in the first three months of card membership. Terms apply
BMO World Elite Mastercard
19.99%
22.99%
$0 annual fee for the first year ($150 thereafter)
$80,000
Get 3 BMO Rewards points per $1 spent on eligible travel, dining and entertainment purchases (up to $50,000 spend annually), and get 2 BMO Rewards points per $1 spent on all other eligible purchases (and once you reach the $50,000 annual spend).
Get up to $575 in value in your first year. Get a bonus of 40,000 BMO Rewards points ($285 travel value booked on bmorewards.com). Plus, get the $150 annual fee waived in the first year.
American Express Business Edge Card
19.99%
21.99%
$99
N/A
Earn 3 Membership Rewards points for every $1 spent on eligible business essentials including office supplies, electronics, rides, gas, eats and drinks (up to an annual earn of 75,000 Membership Rewards), and earn 1 Membership Reward point for every $1 spent on all other eligible purchases
Earn up to 42,000 Membership Rewards points in your first year. Earn a Welcome Bonus of 30,000 Membership Rewards points when you spend at least $5,000 on eligible purchases within the first three months, and earn 1,000 Membership Rewards points each month (a total of 12,000 annually) when you spend a minimum of $3,000 on eligible purchases
Shell AIR MILES Mastercard from BMO
19.99%
22.99%
$0
$15,000
Get 2 AIR MILES for every $20 spent at participating AIR MILES Partners, and get 1 AIR MILE for every $20 spent on eligible purchases elsewhere.
Get 950 AIR MILES Bonus Miles (enough for $100 towards purchases with AIR MILES Cash). Plus, get 5x the Miles at Shell until December 31, 2020.
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Compare up to 4 providers

Name Product Purchase Interest Rate Cash Advance Rate Cash Back Rate Annual Fee Minimum Income Reward
SimplyCash Preferred Card from American Express
19.99%
21.99%
2%
$99
N/A
Earn 2% cash back on all eligible purchases
Earn 10% cash back on all eligible purchases (up to $400 in cash back) for the first four months of Cardmembership.
Tangerine Money-Back Credit Card
1.95% intro APR for the first , 19.95% thereafter
19.95%
2%
$0
$12,000
Earn 2% cash back in two categories of your choice (or three categories if you open a Tangerine Savings Account and directly deposit your cash back into the account), and 0.5% cash back on everything else.
Get a 1.95% interest rate on balance transfers for the first six months (valid within the first 30 days of account opening).
BMO CashBack World Elite Mastercard
19.99%
22.99%
1.5%
$0 annual fee for the first year ($120 thereafter)
$80,000
Earn 1.5% cash back on all eligible purchases.
Get up to 10% cash back in your first 3 months and the $120 annual fee waived in the first year.
Shell CashBack Mastercard from BMO
19.99%
22.99%
1.5%
$0
$15,000
Get 1.5% cash back at participating Shell locations in Canada (up to a maximum spend of $2,500 in any monthly billing period), and get 0.5% cash back everywhere else.
Get $50 in cash back bonuses once you charge your first eligible purchase to your card. Plus, earn 1% cash back for the first 6 months on all eligible purchases.
BMO Cashback Business Mastercard
19.99%
22.99%
1.75%
$0
N/A
Earn 1.5% cash back on eligible gas purchases, office supplies and on cell phone and internet recurring payments, earn 1.75% cash back at participating Shell stations, and earn 0.75% on all other eligible card purchases.
Get 10% cash back on gas, office supplies, cell phone bills and internet bills for 3 months.
BMO CashBack Mastercard
19.99%
22.99%
0.5%
$0
$15,000
Earn 3% cash back on groceries, 1% on recurring bill payments and 0.5% on all other eligible purchases.
Get 5% cash back on all eligible purchases in the first three months of card membership (up to a maximum spend of $2,000, and earn 3% cash back on groceries, 1% on recurring bill payments and 0.5% on all other eligible purchases thereafter). Plus, get a rate of 1.99% on balance transfers with a 1% balance transfer fee for nine months.
BMO CashBack Mastercard For Students
19.99%
22.99%
0.5%
$0
$15,000
Earn 3% cash back on groceries, 1% on recurring bill payments and 0.5% on all other eligible purchases.
Get up to 5% cash back in the first three months (up to a maximum spend of $2,000, and earn 3% cash back on groceries, 1% on recurring bill payments and 0.5% on all other eligible purchases thereafter). Plus, get a rate of 1.99% on balance transfers for 9 months, with a 1% fee for every transferred balance.
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Compare up to 4 providers

Name Product Purchase Interest Rate Cash Advance Rate Annual Fee Minimum Income Benefits with this card Description
BMO CashBack Mastercard
19.99%
22.99%
$0
$15,000
Earn 3% cash back on groceries, 1% on recurring bill payments and 0.5% on all other eligible purchases.
Get 5% cash back on all eligible purchases in the first three months of card membership (up to a maximum spend of $2,000, and earn 3% cash back on groceries, 1% on recurring bill payments and 0.5% on all other eligible purchases thereafter). Plus, get a rate of 1.99% on balance transfers with a 1% balance transfer fee for nine months.
Tangerine Money-Back Credit Card
1.95% intro APR for the first , 19.95% thereafter
19.95%
$0
$12,000
Earn 2% cash back in two categories of your choice (or three categories if you open a Tangerine Savings Account and directly deposit your cash back into the account), and 0.5% cash back on everything else.
Get a 1.95% interest rate on balance transfers for the first six months (valid within the first 30 days of account opening).
No-Fee Scotiabank Value Visa Card
16.99%
16.99%
$0
$12,000
Save with a low interest rate, no annual fee and a balance transfer offer.
Get a 3.99% introductory interest rate on balance transfers with a 0% balance transfer fee for the first 6 months. Apply by October 31, 2020.
Shell AIR MILES Mastercard from BMO
19.99%
22.99%
$0
$15,000
Get 2 AIR MILES for every $20 spent at participating AIR MILES Partners, and get 1 AIR MILE for every $20 spent on eligible purchases elsewhere.
Get 950 AIR MILES Bonus Miles (enough for $100 towards purchases with AIR MILES Cash). Plus, get 5x the Miles at Shell until December 31, 2020.
Shell CashBack Mastercard from BMO
19.99%
22.99%
$0
$15,000
Get 1.5% cash back at participating Shell locations in Canada (up to a maximum spend of $2,500 in any monthly billing period), and get 0.5% cash back everywhere else.
Get $50 in cash back bonuses once you charge your first eligible purchase to your card. Plus, earn 1% cash back for the first 6 months on all eligible purchases.
BMO Rewards Mastercard
19.99%
22.99%
$0
$15,000
Get 1 BMO Reward point for every $1 spent on eligible purchases, and get 2 BMO Rewards points for every $1 spent at participating National Car Rental and Alamo Rent A Car locations.
Get a bonus of 15,000 BMO Rewards points. Plus, get a rate of 1.99% on balance transfers for 9 months. A 1% fee applies to transferred balances.
BMO IGA AIR MILES Mastercard
19.99%
22.99%
$0
$15,000
Get 2 AIR MILES for every $20 spent on eligible purchases at IGA stores and at participating AIR MILES partners, and get 1 AIR MILE for every $20 spent elsewhere.
Get 950 AIR MILES Bonus Miles (enough for $100 towards purchases with AIR MILES Cash). Plus, get 5x the Miles at Shell until December 31, 2020.
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Compare up to 4 providers

Name Product Purchase Interest Rate Cash Advance Rate Annual Fee Minimum Income Reward
BMO Preferred Rate Mastercard
12.99%
12.99%
$20
$15,000
Take advantage of an introductory balance transfer offer, annual fee waiver in the first year, and low purchase and cash advance interest rates.
Get a rate of 3.99% on balance transfers for 9 months with a 1% transfer fee. Plus, get the $20 annual fee waived in the first year.
HSBC +Rewards™ Mastercard®
11.9%
11.9%
$0 annual fee for the first year ($25 thereafter)
N/A
Earn 2 Points for every $1 spent on eligible dining or entertainment purchases.
Earn 20,000 Points ($100 travel value) plus a full annual fee rebate for the Primary Cardholder for the first year ($25 value). Apply by December 28, 2020. Conditions Apply. This offer is only available to residents of Canada other than the province of Quebec. (Quebec residents eligible for separate offer).
BMO Rewards Business Mastercard
14.99%
22.99%
$0 annual fee for the first year ($120 thereafter)
N/A
Earn 3 BMO Rewards points for every $1 you spend on gas, office supplies, cell phone bills and internet bills, and earn 1.5 BMO Rewards points for every $1 you spend elsewhere.
Get up to $470 in value in your first year. Get 50,000 BMO Rewards points when you spend $5,000 in the first three months. Plus, the primary cardholder will get the first year $120 annual fee waived.
Business Platinum Card from American Express
N/A
N/A
$499
N/A
Earn 1.25 Membership Rewards points for every $1 spent on eligible purchases
Earn a Welcome Bonus of 50,000 Membership Rewards points when you charge $7,000 in purchases to your Card in your first three months of Cardmembership.
American Express Business Gold Rewards Card
N/A
N/A
$250
N/A
Earn 2 Membership Rewards points for every $1 spent on eligible purchases at select American Express merchant suppliers in Canada (choose 3 suppliers), and earn 1 Membership Reward point for every $1 spent on eligible purchases elsewhere
Earn a Welcome Bonus of 30,000 Membership Rewards points when you spend at least $5,000 on eligible purchases within the first three months
Scotiabank Value Visa Card
12.99%
12.99%
$29
$12,000
Save on interest for 6 months by consolidating your higher-rate balances with the balance transfer offer, and get an on-going 12.99% interest rate on purchases, cash advances and balance transfers.
Get a 0.99% introductory interest rate on balance transfers with a 0% transfer fee for the first 6 months. Apply by October 31, 2020.
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Bottom line

Not being aware of the worst credit card mistakes can cost you money. Make sure you keep an eye on these mistakes and use the best practices to stay on top of your credit card game. And if you still haven’t found the right credit card, compare multiple options until you do.

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