After writing 8 Reasons To Use Your Credit Card, I took a little heat from readers who disagreed with me. All of it was civil (thank you) and much of it came in emails via my contact form. There were also a few direct messages via Facebook and Twitter. The main complaint focused on the ONE reason someone should avoid using a credit card:
You can’t handle a credit card
THAT’s the reason and only you know if it’s true. It isn’t the high interest, the fees, the “rope you in” mentality that many issuers have. It’s the simple fact that a portion of the population simply cannot handle it.
Here was one response I gave to a reader:
Trust me, I understand your concern and aversion toward credit cards, but as tempting as it may be to lump all users together, about a third of all cardholders pay their balance in full each month.
The comparison to [playing with] fire is appropriate. Used responsibly, fire can cook our meals, heat our homes, sterilize medical instruments, heat water for baths and showers, toast marshmallows, and create electricity. It has many wonderful uses. Used irresponsibly, fire can kill, maim, and destroy. Credit cards can be much the same.
It all boils down to the user — can they handle it? Just because some people become arsonists doesn’t mean we should stay away from fire. Neither should we fear credit cards because some people cannot handle them responsibly.
Admittedly, there is a significant number of people who are not psychologically able to handle the temptation to overspend when that little piece of plastic is on fire, burning a hole in their wallet or purse. I’ve been on both the responsible end of credit card use and the irresponsible end. I’ve had as many as 6 cards charged PAST their maximums, generating fees like you wouldn’t believe. I’ve paid them all off (over $35,000) only to go right back into debt again. But those days are long behind me.
What happened to change me from being an irresponsible user of credit cards?
I’m not really sure. I’ll attribute it (for me) to growing up and becoming an adult where it concerns my finances. I use that analogy because I watch kids, who manage to accumulate some cash here and there, but have a hard time NOT spending everything they make on their latest item of interest. Give an average kid five bucks, turn him loose in a candy store, but tell him to only spend three dollars. You’ll see what I mean (though your mileage may vary).
Only YOU know if you can handle a credit card
Just like only YOU know if you can handle playing with matches, driving a car, enjoying an adult beverage, or any one of a host of other temptations. Only YOU can and should be setting the ground-rules for yourself where it concerns a credit card and I suspect that you already know.
If you can handle credit cards, then great! Reap all the rewards you can! If you can’t, try out PerkStreet – it’s a checking account that has a very robust rewards program of it’s own by using a debit card to make your non-pin purchases.