Let’s be clear – when you use them properly, credit cards can be the cheapest way to borrow money. However, there are plenty of pitfalls. Make a few bad decisions or take your eye off the ball and their benefits can significantly lessen. Savvy management is the key when it comes to making a credit card work hard for you. Here’s some of the most common mistakes – and how to avoid them.

1. Using cards to supplement everyday spending

Credit cards can be useful for spreading the cost of big purchases, there are even cashback credit cards which reward you for paying by card. However, it’s easy to fall into the trap of using them to supplement your income, especially when household costs rise faster than your income. Spending more on your credit card than your monthly income is fine, as long as you’ve got a plan of how and when you’ll pay back what you owe.

2. Failing to hit the minimum monthly repayment

Always check this as soon as you take out a credit card and stick to it religiously. Failing to repay the minimum could end up wiping out any of the savings you’re making through 0% Balance Transfer deals on purchases or cashback offers.

3. Staying too loyal

Unlike other areas of life, loyalty is rarely rewarded in the credit card world. The best deals are usually available to new customers, regardless of whether you’ve been a model customer who has always paid on time and in full. So if you’ve taken out a card due to its generous 0% deal on purchases or balance transfers, circle the date in your diary when the introductory offer ends.

4. Choosing the wrong type of card

When the time comes to compare credit cards, think long and hard about what it is you want from the card. If you’re looking to carry out a balance transfer to reduce your spending on outstanding balances, make sure you go for the one with the longest 0% deal, rather than one that tempts you with rewards that you may not even end up using.

5. Don’t apply for too many at once

Be careful with your credit card applications and certainly don’t carry more than a couple at any one time, as this can affect your credit rating, especially if the hassle of managing more than one card means you end up missing your repayment date, incurring a charge and losing your 0% deal.