Credit Cards: Debt Traps or Useful Tools?
As an avowed frugalista, I don’t spend money that often – but I love credit cards. When I do spend money, I like to make sure that it works double-time for me, and credit card reward points ensure that.
The Benefit of Credit Card Use
When used responsibly, credit cards can help a frugal person do more with their money. I personally use my rewards points to travel, but you can use them to buy gifts or to erase part of your card balance.
Credit cards offer sign-up bonuses and ongoing rewards programs that incentivize you to use their cards. The Capital One VentureOne card, for example, gives holders 20,000 points for spending $1,000 in the first three months. You also earn 1.25 points on every dollar spent. Points can be used to book travel or reduce your monthly bills.
Every time I fill up my gas tank or spend money on groceries, I’m also putting money towards my travel account. I hoard my points until I have enough to pay for the travel I want to do. That way, I essentially get a free plane ticket. I use my credit card for all my expenses. Spending that I would do regardless – things like utilities, food, or health insurance – all go on my credit card. By putting my essential spending on my credit card, I not only insure my bills are paid on time, but I also reap the reward point benefits.
To me, this is an easy way to make my money go even further. I’m one of only a few millennials who feels that way, though – 67 percent of Millennials don’t use credit cards. Millennials avoid credit cards because they shy away from adding to their debt burden (most millennials have a negative net worth, thanks to student loans), and because they don’t see credit cards as a tool to build their credit scores.
Money is as personal as it gets, so to each their own.
I just know that as someone on the lower-income side of things, credit cards have been a huge help to me.
The Safety in Using Credit Cards Over Debit Cards
Aside from the reward points, they add a layer of protection that debit cards don’t. If someone gets my debit card info, he can wipe out my bank account. If someone gets my credit card info, I can have the charge removed and a new card issued to me. My money remains safe and sound.
Credit cards can also help those with poor credit to increase their scores. Your credit score rises based on a few different things, but making on-time monthly payments is one great way to boost it. Open a credit card, use 30 percent or less of your available credit, and make your payments every month. Your score will go up in just a few months, I promise.
It’s important to note that I only use about 15 percent of my available credit each month, and that I always pay my credit cards off in full. I’m frugal, remember? I don’t spend that much. Carrying a balance on your credit card is a bad idea. You lose money to interest that way, which will outweigh any perks you’re getting. Only use a credit card if you can afford to completely pay it off each month.
Credit cards are a money tool, the same way that your budget is. When used correctly, they can help your money do more and go further.