Though credit cards are not the only cause of consumer debt, they’re by far the easiest type of debt to accumulate. Some people advise “cutting up your plastic” in order to prevent more debt, but it’s much more effective to retrain yourself to use those little pieces of plastic responsibly.
How to Use Credit Cards Responsibly
The first rule, the ONLY rule, is this: you must pay off your credit card bill in full each and every month. Once you’re able to consistently do that, there are currently only two reasons I’d recommend using a credit card:
No, not the convenience you’re probably thinking of. I’m talking about the convenience of recordkeeping. Credit cards are easier and more accurate than cash for budgeting and recordkeeping. If you make almost all of your purchases with a credit card, you’ll receive a documented record of your spending each month. BUT, the convenience of credit cards has one main catch—the temptation to make purchases on credit by not paying off your balance in full each month. If you do intend to use a credit card after getting out of debt, you must pay off the balance in full each month.
Using a credit card for the rewards make sense, a lot of sense, but again, you must pay off the balance in full each month. Failing to pay the balance will only get you right back into debt. Here’s a list of three popular rewards credit cards.
Alternatives to Credit Cards
Debit cards and prepaid (secured) credit cards can give you the convenience of credit cards while eliminating the temptation to spend more than you have.
For debit cards, nothing beats Perkstreet®. Their MasterCard® debit card gives you the best of both worlds — no debt and rewards. Yep, they give you two percent cash back! The average family could get back $600 per year in cash back rewards just for using the Perkstreet debit card.
For secured cards, there are several good choices.
Public Savings Bank has a great program.
- Build credit history – They report to all 3 major credit bureaus
- No credit check for approval
- Prime plus 6.5% variable APR – Not an introductory rate
- No checking account required
Another great option is the SilverCard Prepaid MasterCard®
- Perfect card for Government/Benefits Checks recipients
- $0 activation with rebate*
- 100% guaranteed approval*/no credit check
- Free direct deposit of your pay or government check
- Free unlimited purchase transactions anywhere where MasterCard Debit card is accepted
- No overdraft fees or minimum balances
- Online Checking – Electronic or paper checks
- Apply for the SilverCard prepaid Mastercard®!