With the new year just around the corner, it’s a good time to reflect on your life and accomplishments over the past 12 months. It’s also a good time to think about your finances!
With credit card debt at staggering levels nationwide, it’s high time to get serious about spending. Of course, credit cards can be wonderful resources for buying what we need sans cash, but we need to use them responsibly if we are to avoid financial ruin. With that in mind, here are five credit card pitfalls to avoid in 2018.
Don’t fall for these credit card traps in 2018
Don’t sign up for just any card
Some people may be of the mistaken belief that all credit cards are pretty much created equal. “Just swipe and pay later,” is the general thought, but credit cards are diverse and varied in their designs, benefits and functionalities. Do your spending habits and lifestyle incline you more toward a credit card that lets you earn frequent flyer miles? Or are you more interested in cash back after every purchase? Which ever card you decide is right for you, use it with purpose and goals that best align to your lifestyle — not just to buy stuff.
Try not to carry a balance
I know, I know, what’s the point of having a credit card if you shouldn’t have a balance, right? Well, the interest on the balance (revolving debt) is how credit card companies themselves pay their bills — and business is good. In 2016, credit card companies raked in $163 billion, according to finance website the Motley Fool, with the majority of that being from interest. If you don’t want to give away extra money, try to pay your balance by the end of the month. Not doing so can affect your credit negatively and limit your borrowing power.
Don’t necessarily settle for your credit card due date
One thing many credit card holders may not realize is that your credit card due date can be changed in many cases. Many consumers feel trapped when their due date approaches and it happens to coincide with one or two other monthly bills — but it doesn’t have to be that way. Contact your credit card issuer and see about arranging a due date that works for your budget and can help ease the load financially.
Don’t sign up with a credit fix or debt settlement outfit
Many consumers who find themselves in financial trouble over credit card debt immediately call up one of those fix-your-credit-cheap businesses, but those places aren’t what they seem. They typically promise to save your finances by settling your debts and getting your credit into tip-top shape.
Money expert Clark Howard says, “That promise, however, is just an illusion.” In his guide to paying off credit card debt, Clark says: “The debt-settlement firms’ typical modus operandi goes like this: You pay an upfront fee to them, plus a monthly retainer. They then tell you to stop paying on your bills, stash the money you would have used to pay bills into a bank account and just sit on it. The idea is to make the credit card companies so desperate that they’ll cry uncle and want to settle with you at a reduced rate. The reality, however, is that too often you wind up just damaging your credit.”
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The big takeaway from this is to use your card responsibly. To avoid interest, pay your balance by the end of the month. If that’s not possible, pay what you can afford then call your credit card issuer and see if you can negotiate a payment plan.