Resource to Help You Learn to Use Credit Cards Wisely
Learn how to develop a healthy relationship with credit cards to avoid debt.
Millions of Americans have faced challenges with credit card debt, but credit cards themselves are not the enemy of good finance. If you learn how to use credit cards wisely, you can develop a good credit strategy that avoids debt problems while helping you build your way to a better credit score.
The resources in this section are all designed to teach you how to use credit cards wisely without abusing them. Once you have a better understanding of how credit cards work and how to use them strategically, you may decide you can keep them in your life instead of swearing them off for good. If you still have questions, Consolidated Credit’s financial coaches are here to help. Just click the Ask a Question button at the bottom of this page.
Good Credit Habits of Smart Spenders
Credit cards are a great financial tool when used correctly. But you have to be a Smart Spender when it comes to using credit the right way.
Smart Spenders aren’t going out to get credit just because they can. And they don’t treat credit like money that they don’t have to pay back. They understand that credit cards can be used for convenience, safety and tracking, but even credit cards used for the right reasons have to be used responsibly.
Smart Spenders aren’t constantly going out and signing up for new credit cards. Instead they only get new credit when they need it and shop around for the best cards for their needs. Instead of being lured in by advertising, they research credit cards carefully to ensure they’re not blindsided once the card is in use or that the rewards aren’t worth the interest and fees.
Smart Spenders aren’t using luck or crossing their fingers hoping that they get approved because they know exactly how creditors judge creditworthiness. They understand the three Cs – character, capital and capacity. They know they have to show they’re a responsible borrower who can and will repay what they borrow, with assets to back them up.
Once Smart Spenders find the right card for their needs, they take time to read through the contract carefully so they know what they’re really getting into. They know their credit limits, can strategically pay around the grace period, and know how to avoid penalties – and exactly what those penalties will be if the card is misused.
Even though credit card statements always come with a minimum payment requirement, Smart Spenders always pay more than the minimum – it’s a trap. They usually pay off everything in full on credit cards used that month. This way they always start the month with zero balances on their cards. When they can’t pay off a balance in full, they make a plan to pay it off as fast as possible, and know how to read statements to find balance payoff information.
A credit card grace period is the amount of time you have to pay off a balance before interest charges are applied. A Smart Spender knows when the grace period ends in relation to each billing cycle so they can pay off the debt accrued that month before the interest charges are applied to minimize the cost of using credit.
Smart Spenders understand that just because a credit card company gives you a high credit limit, it doesn’t mean you should run up that debt. Smart Spenders check two metrics often: how much they can afford to borrow and what they can comfortably pay to eliminate debt each month. They check how much they can borrow by setting a limit at 15% of their net annual income. And they also check how much they can afford to pay back each month by calculating 10% of their net monthly income. This helps ensure Smart Spenders have enough money for bills, expenses like groceries, and even savings.
One of the biggest downsides to using credit is it makes it really easy to give into impulse buys when you see something you want in a store. Smart Spenders resist the temptation and only buy things when they need them after taking time to shop around for the best price. They may even think about it a few days before deciding to buy something to make sure they really have to have it. They also avoid other bad habits, like using credit to cover budget gaps, leaving balances to accrue interest month after month and using one credit card to pay another.
Now you know these eight credit habits to make you a Smart Spender, too!
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