These days, almost everyone has a credit card. But who wouldn’t like to own a card that lets them swipe rather than count cash, shop online and spend money without having to pay back right away? Unfortunately, these “sweet” benefits are some of the traps that many credit card holders fall into, making them not to use their cards in the right way and ending up being worried about how to repay the huge balances. If you wish to avoid credit card debt or avoid being tempted by your credit card, here are 7- tips that will inspire you to start using the plastic card responsibly.
1. Always Pay Off Your Balances in Full
Some people have been spreading a rumor that leaving a balance on a credit card can help increase the credit. You should never leave a balance if you can pay it off, but why? It’s because when you leave a balance, you’ll be charged interest. Note that credit cards come with approximately 15% Annual Percentage Rate (APR), meaning that in the end, you’ll pay more for the staffs you buy. So it’s just better to clear the full balance on or even before the due date.
You can even make multiple payments within a month, like once or twice a week. In fact, some people make payments on their credit cards after every purchase. But if you would like to do this too, then make sure that your credit card provider doesn’t penalize customers for making more than Y amount of payments per month.
But what if one has a reward card and is trying to earn extra points? Of course, you need to spend a lot to get more points. However, that doesn’t mean that you must have a balance on the card.
2. Create Reminders For Your Payments or Set Up Autopay
Do you often go through your credit card statements or do you log into your online account? If your answer is “NO” then you are likely to forget about the payment dates. There are several ways of making sure that you aren’t late when it comes to making payments. First, you can go for automatic payments, and this can be done online as well as by contacting your credit card provider.
When changing settings online, find the “payments” tab, which should have “auto payments”/ “manage payments” or something close to that, underneath it. If you prefer automatic payments, then you should know that there are a several choices that you’ll have to make. These include the options for;
- Making minimum payment required
- Paying your current statement balance
- Paying off the balance in full.
Note that the last two choices can be different amounts based on the date when your last payment was posted, as well as if you made some purchases close to the due date. Despite the fact that this can be a fantastic idea for individuals with buffers on their checking accounts, it isn’t great for those with fluctuating bank balances. Of course, no one wants to go for full automatic payments and accidentally overdraw their account because they forgot their payments were going through. If this is a problem for you, there are several better alternatives that you can try.
The first one is to set up reminders on your phone. Just tap the calendar app, and you’ll find this option. Secondly, you can choose to receive notification emails from the card provider when any event happens. This means that you’ll always be notified when your payments are due, so that you can pay off your balances on time. Note that “email notification” option can be accessed from your account settings.
What if reminders too don’t work for you, and you tend not to spend a lot from your card? Then we recommend that you start thinking about making the minimum payment and you’ll be safe.
Additional tip: In most cases, credit card holders are allowed to change their card’s due date, and this can make things easier, especially if you do get paid irregularly.
3. Try to Treat the Credit Card Like a Debit Card
The money on credit card isn’t free money. So you should never use it to buy staffs that you can’t afford with real cash. We recommend that you start treating the credit card like a debit card. You’ll agree that with a debit card, one can’t buy something worth $600 when they don’t have the same amount in their bank accounts, otherwise, they’ll be charged an overdraft fee. Try to apply the same rule on your plastic card by not charging more than you can pay at the point of purchase. For example, you shouldn’t buy something that costs $910, when you only have $900.
4. Always Stick to Your Monthly Budget
No matter whether you draft the 80-20 budget or a formal line-item budget, you should try to stick to it. In most cases, debt results from impulse purchases. But if you can stay on the right path that you’ve set, you’ll never spend more than you can earn, and this leads us to the next tip.
5. Differentiate Between Wants & Needs
Are you one those people who find it difficult to say no to things they would like to buy, regardless of whether they have a budget or not? Then it’s important that you get a clear understanding of what’s a want and what’s a need.
To avoid the temptation to swipe when you see something you “want”, you can go back to the basics. Charge only what you “need”, like gas, utilities, car insurance, groceries, monthly car rental fees etc, and then spend cash on the other expenses- wants.
6. Don’t Go for Rewards Cards Not Unless You’re Disciplined
Reward cards can be tricky to deal with. It’s important that you use them correctly, or else you’ll lose out. Those who aren’t extremely disciplined when it comes to using their credit tend to charge multiple purchases to earn more points. Making payments to earn “extra” points isn’t the best way to use a reward card. Remember that we’ve said that you should be spending what you can afford.
The best way to use your reward card is when you have planned purchases. You may be buying a new furniture, paying an insurance premium, repairing your car or remodeling your house, all at once. These are things that are in your budget and will help you reach the spending requirement for reward cards points.
We repeat- “Be careful with reward cards.” Apart from the points discussed above, these cards also tend to have higher APRs compared to other regular credit cards. You’ll even be charged more if you can’t pay off your balances in full, and this negates the cash back or rewards you’ve earned.
Moreover, ensure that you’re smart when it comes to choosing the reward cards to apply for. Some of them are travel cards, meaning that you can redeem the points on hotel stays or airfare, while others are cash back cards, which can be redeemed for cash/statement credits.
7. Stop Using Your Credit Card
This is the easiest way to avoid or get out of credit card debt. Just stop using the card or at least until when you’ll get your spending habit under control. If you’re still being tempted to use the card, you can freeze it in ice or cut it up and ban yourself from using it for an extended period of time.
Avoiding credit card debt will never be a difficult task if you can get your spending habits under control, follow your budget accordingly, and check in from time to time to see the balance on your card. But you’ll be at risk if you continue to charge everything & anything without considering the cash you have in your bank. Follow the tips outlined above, and we guarantee that you’ll relieve yourself from the stress related to credit card payments.