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My First Credit Card: Experts Share Their Stories

Jason Steele

There are a handful of people, like myself, who spend all day thinking about credit cards. We read the latest news, interview the leaders of the industry, and help teach others how best to use these ubiquitous financial tools.

But we weren’t born as credit card experts, and we all started at some point in our lives with our first credit cards, just like everyone else. So I thought it would be interesting to learn what the top credit card experts chose as their first card, and what they learned from their experiences.

Brian Kelly

Brian is the founder of The Points Guy, a website that teaches credit card users how best to earn and spend their credit card rewards. Here’s his story:

My first credit card was from University of Pittsburgh and MBNA (now Capital One) – with some outrageous $15,000 limit, back when I had negative income! Oh, the glory days of the pre-credit crisis. I used it to go on my first trip to Ireland, but I wasn’t earning any rewards (my alma mater was happily getting a nice payday, though). I think my sign-up bonus was an umbrella, or something equally as useless. Long gone are my days of getting cards for silly sign-up bonuses and no rewards!

Gerri Detweiler

Gerri is Director of Consumer Education for Credit.com and the host of the host of a live weekly radio program Talk Credit Radio. Here’s her story:

My first credit card was a card from Sears. I needed a couch for my first apartment and rather than buy used (which is what I should have done), I applied for a credit card from Sears. They approved me for a $1,000 limit, so I threw in a lamp and answering machine. I faithfully made the minimum payments but really didn’t pay attention to the interest rate, so three years later I still had a large balance. By that time, the answering machine had broken and the sofa had a tear in it!

Sean Bryant

Sean is a personal finance blogger and the founder of credit card site Card Journalist. Here’s his story:

I took out my first credit card when I was in college, a University of Iowa card from Bank of America card.  Now that I look back on it, I probably didn’t make a great decision based on award value since it only offered cardholders 1% cash back. What has worked out for me is that it has no annual fee and has become my longest active credit card.

Beverly Harzog

Beverly is a credit card expert and author of Confessions of a Credit Junkie: Everything you need to know to avoid the mistakes I made. Here’s her story:

I can’t remember the exact name of my first credit card, but it was a Citi card. I had a $300 limit and that seemed like a ton of money to me at the time. After I started using the card, they kept raising my credit limit — a move that Citi and I both came to regret!

My First Credit Card

My parents made me an authorized user on one of their credit cards when I was around 13. I was only to allowed to use it when they specifically told me to, or in an emergency. This way, they could send me to the store to run errands, or allow me to buy a meal or a movie ticket when I was out with my friends. At the end of the month, they would add up any personal charges I made, and I would pay the bill out of my allowance and savings, and I was never allowed to carry a balance. And unlike cash, they knew always where I spent the money (if not what I spent it on).

Because my parents acted kind of like a credit card issuer, I was able to learn how to manage credit cards effectively by the time I was old enough to have an account of my own. In fact, I give them tremendous credit for teaching me these valuable personal finance lessons.

What You Can Learn From Our Mistakes

Managing your credit cards smartly can have a positive impact on you in the long-run, and it’s not just from limiting your debt load. By paying off your credit cards every month and not maxing them out, you can take advantage of some the perks of a great credit score too. You can see whether your credit cards are hurting or helping your credit for free on Credit.com.

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