Your approach is perfect. Don't use a credit card to finance your lifestyle. Most of us on the forum don't, or only pay pay interest on rare occasions like emergencies. I have never paid a penny in interest, but I cycle all the spending I would otherwise make through credit cards for the rewards.
BLR wrote:i wanted to get a credit card from amazon that gives me a 70$ gift card balance. if i get that card and never, ever use it again, is that considered credit card fraud or something?
Not at all. I've started plenty of store accounts just for a one-time discount, paid it immediately, and never used it again. It is your card in your name, and you can use it as you see fit - which includes not at all.
obviously they wouldn't give me that credit card
so i researched what kind of credit card i CAN get. that's all well and good. but i don't understand what i NEED to do with it. or how to do it.
With no history your options are pretty much limited to a secured card (you give them money they hold on to while you have the card. You get it back, but it gives them something if you end up not paying what you owe) or a store card. After you've established some history, you can get cards that actually benefit you.
BLR wrote:A: if i get this card, and never ever use it.... that doesn't work, right? like i say, i don't NEED a credit card. (i know, it's so un-american to live within one's means.) except for emergency purposes. if i never have an emergency....
You can have a credit card for emergencies and never touch it. If you read around on the forum at all you'll see people use "sockdrawer" as a verb. It means to not use a card all, as though you put it in a sock drawer and just forgot about it.
BLR wrote:B: so what is the minimum i can use this thing, and how much will it cost me? if i put money in it before i spend money on it... does that work? (here's one for a laugh: if i pay money into it, so that i have a 'negative' balance, will THEY pay ME interest on it? hah!
You can use it as little as you want or not at all. You won't have the option of putting money on it that you don't owe. That describes a prepaid card or debit card.
You can barely get any interest out of a savings account, so if you find a way for a bank to give you 20% in interest let us know
BLR wrote:and i was reading an agreement on my bank's visa card. it says all that about you can pay off your balance before the whatever date and not get charged interest... but then later it says the MINIMUM monthly payment i can make was 15 dollars. i have to pay 15 dollars a month for that thing?? even without a balance and without using it??
The period between the statement cutoff and payment due date is commonly referred to as the "grace period" because it is the window you have to pay off without being charged interest. ALWAYS pay off the ENTIRE statement balance within this grace period and you'll never pay interest.
If you don't use it, the minimum payment will just be $0. If you buy a pack of gum and that is it, the minimum payment will be that little charge. It is only if you charge $15+ that the $15 minimum payment comes into play. It is the minimum you must pay by the due date to avoid penalty fees. If you owe more than $15 but just make the $15 minimum payment, you will be charged interest on whatever is outstanding.
BLR wrote:i don't understand what i actually need to do with a credit card, and how much it will end up costing me. is there a plan or outline or something? this is solely to establish a credit history. (that's not fraudulent use, is it?)
If you get a card with no annual fee and ALWAYS pay the full statement balance before the payment due date, it will cost you nothing. Other than that, again, use it however you want. Having one at all will show up on your credit reports, and using it even now and then will cause positive payment histories to be reported on you. THAT is how you build credit without taking on unnecessary debt and paying unnecessary interest, which will in turn allow you to get favorable terms when you actually do need to take on debt (such as a lower interest rate on a mortgage). Credit cards can be a wonderful tool, but like any tool it can cause a lot of harm if you don't know how to properly use it.