We are a nation of debt and we are not alone. It seems like the average person in the United States, Canada, Great Britain, and so on all live with with a balance sheet in the red. In Vancouver, we’ve seen rising interest rates and housing prices, resulting in huge mortgages that people just can’t afford. It’s just as easy to point to 0% credit cards and blame them for our increasing debt. After all, how enticing is it to buy the latest electronic device, big screen TV, or that hot new spring dress when you don’t have to pay any interest for it… at least up front.

Luckily, I never had to take out a student loan for my career at UBC. I always pay my credit card bill on time (and in full) so I never have to suffer those atrocious interest rates. That’s why things like 0% balance transfers don’t really appeal to me. At the same time, I love having my credit cards because they reward me for doing things I’m going to do anyways. I get Airmiles to spend on free flights, merchandise, and gift certificates. That’s why when you compare credit cards, you should not only look at the up-front gifts they may offer (a free t-shirt is nice and all, but basically worthless), but also what additional benefits they can provide you.

The single best piece of advice that I can give anyone considering a credit card is to ALWAYS PAY IT OFF IN FULL. You don’t want to end up paying the 18% (or more) interest that banks charge. After all, that $1000 television will very quickly cost you an extra couple hundred dollars if you do. Never live beyond your means. If you can’t afford the TV up front, then don’t buy it. You’re in control, remember, not your bank.

The preceding post was brought to you by Credit Cards GB