More on the Good and Bad of Credit Cards

by Kevin on June 11, 2008

“There is nothing to fear, but fear itself.” – Winston Churchill

Don’t fear credit cards. They are tools, just like backhoes, garden hoses, and scissors. All of the those items could be considered deadly and dangerous in specific situations. The same holds true for credit cards. They can be used for good and bad.

The good:

  • Paying all of your bills, earning cash back. We’ve earned almost $400 this card-year. Free money.
  • Having fewer checks to write to different companies every month. If you pay all of your utilities with the card, you write one check/send one electronic payment to the credit card company. This greatly simplifies our life. We still have a few bills that won’t take credit cards, but it has greatly reduced the number of checks we write.
  • Setup for automatic bill pay, and things get even easier.

The bad:

  • Carrying a balance is stupid unless absolutely necessary. And the only thing I consider absolutely necessary would be a near-death medical expense or natural disaster where you can’t get to your computer/bank account to pay the bill.
  • Finance and interest charges from carrying a balance are just flat out silly. Your money/bank should pay you with interest, not the other way around.
  • As I mentioned above, if you absolutely must carry a balance then try to find one with low interest. A plain jane credit card will probably be better in terms of interest than a rewards card.
  • Bottom line is the credit card company keeps you as a company to make money off of you. Be aware of this, and tread carefully.

Other Tips:

  • If you are having problems with your credit applications, it usually helps to call and talk to a representative directly. When I got my first credit card (with no real credit, since I had just graduated college), that worked for me.
  • Some companies offer instant credit approvals as well. You might try taking them up on the offer, but be careful with the fine print.

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June 15, 2008 at 10:10 am
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{ 1 comment }

Sara June 12, 2008 at 12:27 am

Thanks for not resorting to a one-sided take. How to use credit is one of the most personal aspects of personal finance. I personally love the benefits of credit cards and haven’t paid a dime in interest in years. Cash back makes it worthwhile but I do agree with your bottom line: the companies exist by making money off of you, so it pays to research every “deal” and “opportunity” they throw at you.

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