Credit cards can be a great leverage tool when you know how to use them properly. Problem is, many people use them as a crutch, rather than for emergencies. Because of this, they often dig themselves deeper and deeper into credit card debt. And, once you start getting deeper into the hole, it's even tougher to climb your way out.

If you want to keep your credit in check and ensure that you don't go down the same debt ridden path like most people, pay attention to these 3 credit card mistakes below. You should avoid these at all costs, and by doing so, you will be rewarded with not only better credit, but little to no debt. Not very many people can say that.

Mistake #1 - Too Many Credit Cards

This is usually a rookie mistake, but is still also a growing problem with a lot of Americans these days. While it may be tempting to sign up for that new card offer you just received in the mail, it's best to throw it away. People get the impression that the more credit cards they have with high limits, the better their credit score will be. This type of thinking leads to nothing but trouble. Once one credit card hits its limit, they're off to charge up the next one. It's a never ending cycle that ends with piles of debt and years of minimum payments. End the cycle now and stop applying for any new credit cards.

Mistake #2 - Late Payments

There are only a couple more things on your credit report than can drop your score more than a late payment (collection accounts or judgments, for example). Even if you can only make the minimum payment for the month, you ALWAYS need to make sure your credit card is paid on time, every time. Late payments can immediately drop your credit score by 20 points or more, which is a serious decline that takes awhile to rebuild. Plus, you'll get socked with a late payment fee. Talk about a double whammy.

A good way to avoid late payments is to take advantage of any online payment system (if your credit card company offers it - most have online access these days). By accessing your account online, you can setup automatic payments, so you never miss a payment.

Mistake #3 - Spending Too Much

Don't get caught up in the trap of blowing money on your credit card without thinking twice about it. Exceed your credit limit by a few bucks and you'll find yourself paying out the nose with high over-the-limit fees. Always pay attention to your credit card statement. You could be coasting by your credit limit and find yourself going over after interest and finance charges are tacked on for the month. Buckle down and stop using your credit cards to spend money you don't have. The money isn't free - you DO have to pay it back.

So, next time you think about getting a credit card, consider these blunders above. Like I mentioned, credit cards are great when you use them right, but use them the wrong way and you'll pay for it (literally).