Credit cards have become an essential part of our lives. They provide a convenient way to make purchases without carrying cash or writing checks. However, it is important to use credit wisely to avoid getting into debt problems later on. In this article, we will provide credit counseling advice on how to use credit wisely to keep your finances under control.
Prior to signing up for a credit card, it is important that consumers are aware of the proper way to use it to avoid excessive debt. Without a good understanding of how to use credit wisely, consumers may find themselves in a tough financial situation. It can lead to mounting debt and a poor credit score. The following tips can help consumers use credit cards responsibly and avoid debt problems.
1. Do not use credit cards to finance an unaffordable lifestyle
If you are constantly accumulating consumer debt and unable to pay the bill each month, then you might be using your cards to finance unreasonable spending. Credit means that you are borrowing money in the transaction. If you can’t pay off your statement at the end of the month, that means you actually don’t have the money to make the purchases you already have made. It’s important to avoid living beyond your means and only use credit when necessary.
2. Avoid using credit cards if you are already in financial trouble
If you are already struggling financially, adding credit card debt to the mix can make things worse. Finance charges and other fees can put your debt management plan in jeopardy. However, using a credit card in a time of financial difficulty can be better than taking out an unsecured loan which typically carry high interest rates. It’s important to assess your financial situation and make the best decision for your circumstances.
3. Don’t get hooked on minimum payments
Some credit card issuers have set their minimum payments as low as 2% of the balance. Others may set it to 4%. If you pay only the minimum, it will take a long time to pay off debts. Plus, all the interest! Because of that, it’s important to pay more than the minimum payment to reduce the overall balance and avoid accumulating more debt.
4. Don’t run up the balance in reliance on a temporary “teaser” interest rate
Some credit cards offer a temporary or promotional rate, which can be attractive. However, it’s important to remember that money borrowed during this time is likely to be paid back at a much higher permanent rate. Therefore, it’s important to read the fine print and understand the terms of the credit card before making any purchases.
5. Make credit card payments on time
Late payments can result in late fees and penalty rates, which can make debt problems worse. It’s important to make credit card payments on time to avoid these fees and maintain a good credit score. If you accidentally miss a payment, it’s worth calling to ask for a fee to be waived.
6. Avoid the special services, programs, and goods that credit card lenders offer to the bill to their cards
Credit card lenders often offer extras such as fraud protection plans, credit record protection, travel clubs, life insurance, etc. But, these are often bad deals. It’s important to avoid these extras and only use credit for necessary purchases.
7. Beware of unsolicited increases to the credit limit
Don’t assume that an increase in your credit limit means that your lender thinks you can afford more credit. Lenders generally increase limits for consumers that they think will carry a bigger balance and pay more interest. Remember, that’s how they make money; they aren’t in business to make life easier for you. It’s important to assess whether an increase in credit limit is necessary and if you can afford to pay it back.
8. Don’t max out cards
It’s easy to get hit with over-limit fees. A credit card account close to its limit will cause a big drop in a credit score. Consumers should be aware of whether their account allows them to spend over their limit, as this is optional. If possible, consumers should try to stay below 30 percent of their credit limit.
If you’re struggling to pay off debt, ACCC can help. Schedule a free credit counseling session with us today.