Credit Card

I hear it all the time. Credit cards are evil. They’re the reason that people get buried in debt. They’re the reason why people end up overspending. I disagree.

While I can sympathize with those who are facing financial struggles and hardships, you can’t blame the credit card for their problems. The credit card is a useful tool that you can use to your advantage, but it can also be one that can get you in trouble. The same line of thought can apply to a kitchen knife. It can be used to prepare a delightful meal or it can be used in a ghastly crime. The knife itself is not to blame; it’s the person who wields it.

It sounds simple enough, but the single biggest piece of advice when it comes to credit cards is this:

Always pay off your monthly balance in full.

Yes, falling into the trap of spending more money is an easy one, but it’s one that you have to overcome. You need the willpower to say no. At the core, if you cannot afford to purchase an item in cash, then you probably shouldn’t be putting it on your credit card either. There may be extenuating circumstances where this cannot be avoided, but it holds up as a general rule of thumb.

I’m not saying that if you can’t pay for something in cash that you shouldn’t get it at all. Not all debt is bad debt. Most people cannot afford to buy a home if they don’t take on a mortgage, for example. Some people choose to finance their vehicles and it’s up to you if that’s the right decision given your current situation. That said, I would not finance anything through my credit cards.

Again, it’s worth re-iterating that credit cards are tools that can work in your favor. Most of them offer some sort of rewards program, either as dividends or reward miles. When you use your credit card, you accrue these “bonuses” that you would not otherwise accrue when paying in cash. Some debit cards have reward programs too, but I find those on credit cards tend to be better. Credit cards can also help with budgeting, as your monthly statements make it much clearer exactly where you spent your money.

As with so many other things in life, it comes down to self-discipline and foresight. Credit cards are not the problem. It’s all about how you choose to use them.