It’s amazing how a small piece of plastic can have a huge impact on our lives. The concept of credit has been around for thousands of years, but it wasn’t until the early 1950’s that credit cards were introduced in the U.S. Now, nearly 70 years later, millions of Americans own at least one credit card and are bombarded with offers for new cards every day.
Although using credit cards can be convenient, there is a price to pay when they are not handled with care. Below are some best practices everyone should follow when choosing to use credit cards.
First, keep in mind that not all cards are created equal. It may be easier to apply for a card online, but checking with your local credit union or bank could be beneficial as they tend to offer lower rates and fees. Remember, higher credit scores should equal lower rates.
Also, more is not always better. Keeping one or two cards with little balance can be beneficial for your credit score, however, obtaining too many cards and carrying substantial balances can lower your score.
Next, fight the temptation to overspend. Having available credit doesn’t mean you have to use it. Using a credit card may seem harmless, but balances will add up. If you’re going to use your card for everyday purchases, make sure you have money to back it up. Paying off your balance on time and in full each month allows you to avoid paying interest, but paying only the minimum could cost thousands more than you initially charged.
Finally, if you find yourself in overwhelming debt, don’t be afraid to talk to someone. Most financial institutions offer free financial counseling and are happy to help. They’ll work with you to find out if you need a budget or perhaps a consolidation loan to lower your payments. Most importantly, freeing yourself from debt doesn’t happen overnight. It usually requires a lifestyle change, and as hard as that change may be, it’s well worth it when you can say you are debt free.
This article was published in the Venango Area Chamber of Commerce’s August 2019 VenangoWorks! Newsletter.