5 Summertime Credit Card Blunders and How to Avoid Them

5 Summertime Credit Card Blunders and How to Avoid Them
Elizabeth Price/Getty ImagesMaxing out your credit card to pay for a summer trip can do some damage to your credit score.
By Lindsay Konsko

The weather is warm, the kids are home from school and the grill is fired up -- it's official, summer is here!

This is the perfect time of year to kick back and relax, but don't let that leisurely attitude extend to your wallet. Summer is the time to be especially careful with your finances because opportunities to make mistakes are everywhere.

So which money gaffes should you be on the lookout for this season? Avoiding these five summertime credit card blunders is a good place to start:

1. Maxing out your credit card to pay for a vacation. Your friends and co-workers have been talking about their summer getaways for months, so it's understandable that you would want to join in on the fun. But if you're maxing out a credit card to pay for your trip, you're probably doing serious damage to your credit score.

Thirty percent of your credit score is determined by your credit utilization ratio, which is the percentage of credit you're using compared with the amount you have available. Generally, the credit bureaus start docking points from your credit score when you start using 30 percent or more of your available credit.

For this reason, maxing out a card for a summer holiday might not be worth it in the end.

2. Opening too many cards at once to finance a home renovation. Summer is a great time to work on a home improvement project. Just be sure you're not opening too many retail credit cards to get the job done.

New credit inquiries lower credit scores; every time you apply for new credit, you'll lose a few points. If you apply for several cards in a short period of time, the hit will be even bigger. The credit bureaus view opening too much new plastic at once as a sign you may be in financial trouble.

%VIRTUAL-article-sponsoredlinks%It's wise to apply for new credit sparingly, no matter how good the deal is at the home improvement store.

3. Getting caught up in summer fun and forgetting to pay a bill. It's easy to let your worries fade like a summer sunset when you're having a good time. Unfortunately, this is how a lot of people end up forgetting to pay a credit card bill -- and this can have big credit consequences.

A whopping 35 percent of your credit score comes from paying your bills on time. It's extremely important to take steps to make sure you meet your monthly obligations in a timely fashion. Set up automatic bill pay, or use your phone's calendar reminders to alert you when a bill is due. This way, an unpaid credit card balance won't put a wrinkle in your summer fun.

4. Using the wrong card for summer travel. Hitting the roads, rails or sky is common during the summer months. But a lot of people miss out on the opportunity to earn rewards or save big bucks by using the wrong card for their needs.

For instance, if you're planning a road trip, consider applying for a card that gives extra rewards on gas. Alternatively, a card that waives foreign transaction fees is a good choice if you're traveling abroad.

In short, don't assume that the card you usually use is the best for your summer travels. Look into all your options to be sure you're getting the best deal.

5. Letting the heat make you lax about data security. Hot weather can cloud your judgment, but staying on top of data security is essential. The United States is the only country where counterfeit card fraud is continually growing, according to a Nilson Report study last year. Consequently, keeping your card's payment information safe should always be a priority.
  • But what should you do to protect yourself from fraud? Start with these tips:
  • Avoid leaving your card out in plain sight -- keep it tucked in your wallet whenever possible.
  • If you lose your card, report it to your credit card issuer immediately.
  • Check your credit card statement for unauthorized charges; if you find one, report it to your card issuer at once.
  • Only enter your credit card information on websites with "https" at the beginning of the URL. This indicates that the site is secure.
The takeaway: Don't let summer's carefree atmosphere be the reason you slip into bad credit card behaviors. If you follow these tips above, you'll be swiping smart all the way into fall.

Lindsay Konsko is a My Money blogger. You can follow her on Twitter @lkonsko or circle her on Google Plus.

15 Cheap Tricks for Keeping Cool in the Summer
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5 Summertime Credit Card Blunders and How to Avoid Them

If it's still hot out when you're going to bed, stick your pillowcase in the freezer for a bit before you hit the hay. That way, you'll be able to fall asleep on a nice, cool pillow.

We all know that eating and drinking cold things can help cool us down. But you might be surprised to learn that eating very spicy foods can also help you chill out because they help induce sweating.

A cool shower is already a great way to help beat the heat. But when you're done, dry yourself in front of a fan instead of using a towel -– the evaporation will help cool you down. You can also use a spray bottle to spritz yourself and get the same effect.

If you're not at home, keep the curtains drawn and the blinds down. This helps stop sunlight from getting in and heating up your house.
Light colors reflect light instead of absorbing it, like dark colors do. So why the sunscreen? While wearing light colors will keep you cooler, they're not as effective at blocking the sun's harmful rays from your skin. Consider applying a daily lotion that contains SPF 30 so you remain protected.
Unlike air conditioners, fans are usually most effective at cooling people directly, not cooling entire rooms. Try positioning two fans in your windows so that one pushes hot air out, and the other brings cool air in.
The library is filled with free books, magazines, movies, Wi-Fi and, most likely, air conditioning. Instead of reading or surfing the Internet at home on a hot day, do it at the library instead. Also look for children's programs such as story time or book clubs.
Another place that pumps in air conditioning is movie theaters. If you're planning to see a new movie anyway, make it a matinee. The ticket price will be cheaper, and you'll be able to get out of the heat while the sun is shining.

Opening your windows during the day can just make your house hotter. Instead, wait until the evening to open your windows to let the cool air in.

Using the oven can drastically increase the heat in your kitchen. Instead, plan for meals that only use the stove top, microwave or grill.

A few bottles of frozen water can do a lot. Put one behind your neck when you're watching TV or in your bed with you when you sleep at night. If you're going out and about, bring it to drink -– the water will melt slowly, leaving you with something extra cold to sip on.

Incandescent light bulbs use more energy and emit more heat than compact fluorescent light bulbs, so if you haven't already, replace your old bulbs.
Loose cotton and linen will help keep you cool; synthetics will usually make you sweat. So dress accordingly.
Staying hydrated is one of the best ways to keep cool. If you're bored by regular water, try infusing it with fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs. Some refreshing combinations include cucumber with lemon and orange with mint. Infusing is easy –- just slice up the elements you want to use for flavor, put them in a pitcher with some water and keep it in the fridge.
Setting your air conditioner at 78 degrees instead of 72 degrees could decrease your cooling bill between 6 and 18 percent, according to energy.gov. If 78 degrees sounds warm to you, don't worry –- when it's 90 degrees or hotter outside, 78 will feel plenty cool.
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