Consumers Can Make Credit Card Use Part of a Successful Financial Plan

Rachel Morey
June 20, 2017
Credit Cards and Financial Plan

It is possible to use credit cards without going into debt. Many consumers use credit cards so they can receive rewards in the form of gift cards, travel miles, or even cash back.

The difference between people who use credit cards to their financial advantage as opposed to creating a burden of debt for themselves is that successful card users have a simple set of credit card management skills. Credit cards do not represent “free money” and it’s that attitude that gets consumers into trouble. High fees and interest rates pile on top of charges to create an unmanageable situation for people who use credit cards for impulse purchases or to get through a financial rough patch without having to change their lifestyle.

Interest rates can change quickly, so it’s important to be aware of the end date on a special low APR offer on a new card. The best way to avoid paying any interest is to pay the bill in full each month.

Fraud protection, insurance, and cash advances are rarely a good deal for the consumer. Read the fine print before taking part in that type of add-on service through a credit card company.

Avoiding the excessive costs associated with owning a credit card is possible, even with a low or non-existent credit score. Products specifically designed for people with bad credit are usually very expensive.

Secured credit cards tend to have more reasonable fees, and many companies have a program where, after making on-time payments for a pre-determined number of months, the card holder is eligible to graduate to an unsecured card.

Credit cards for people with bad credit usually have a very low limit that hovers around $300. They also usually have a high annual fee that’s due with the first bill. Interest rates are high, as well.

According to a recent report by creditcards.com, nearly 90% of people who call their credit card company and ask for a higher limit get it. Regardless of whether they intend to use the new available credit, this can help raise their FICO score almost immediately, as it reduces the credit use ratio. People who talk to a customer service representative at their credit card company also have an 80% chance at successfully getting their annual fee waived. The call takes 5-10 minutes, so even getting a low $39 per year fee waived is worth the time it takes to ask.

If the interest rate on the card is high, asking for a lower rate after paying the bill on time with regularity is also worth the time it takes to make a call. 70% of consumers who ask for a lower interest rate from their credit card company get it.

Companies that manage rewards credit cards know that many people never redeem their rewards. Before signing up for a new card with a great rewards bonus, plan to redeem those points, miles, or the cash back. Mark the redemption date and any purchase threshold deadlines on the calendar. Remember that making purchases just to get the reward is never a winning game for the consumer.

Paying the bill in full each month is also an important part of successfully managing a rewards card. Otherwise, interest rates and fees could quickly cancel out any pending and actual rewards.

The more consumers understand about how their credit cards work, the greater the chances that they’ll be able to successfully navigate the tricky landscape of credit management. Making smart decisions in the present certainly prevents future financial pain, and understanding the card’s terms, how credit scores work, and how to talk with the credit card companies are fundamental money management skills.

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