Credit card debt is one of the most widespread financial problems throughout many countries of the world. The convenience of using credit cards, combined with the special offers, discounts and reward systems offered by the credit card companies make this method of paying for goods the number one favorite for hundreds of millions of people. However, irrational spending or simply gradual uncontrolled spending habits can lead to a lot of accumulated debt. Preventing this is essential, as it is much easier to avoid credit card debt problems before they grow strong, instead of battling them when they are already at maximum intensity.
The temptation to use credit cards repeatedly a fact that is also supported by the reward systems and lower monthly payments – will often lead to debt problems.
Here are a few tips that will help you use your credit cards more wisely and enable you to prevent the unpleasant situation of having to pay off credit card debts:
Set your budget, create a framework for a monthly budget. As this will enable you to get a better sense of what your earning and spending balance is. Many notice that they simply can’t stick with the planned budget in this case you should leave your credit card at home when going shopping, and use cash instead. Try to pay as much of the balance for each month. Don’t settle for the minimum payment, as that will gradually develop into credit card debt as you are losing quite a lot of money to interest rates.
Always remember that your credit card is a cash substitute, nothing more. You can either carry a balance, which comes with a high interest loan or you can make the minimum payments. Although the amount of the minimum payment seems insignificant (it is usually around 3% of the entire balance), this approach will gradually put you in debt. The credit card company accepts such low payments because they get their money back from keeping you in debt for an unlimited period by using high interest rates.
Many studies have been carried out on the psychology of the credit card owner. We tend to spend more than we can afford, own things that are above our financial reality levels and gratify an immediate need with a debt that might take years to pay off. Try to adapt your spending habits to your life style and earnings. If you can’t pay off the balance on a monthly basis, then you are going into a vicious circle of overspending and credit card debt. Don’t use the credit card anymore, until you pay off the outstanding balance. You should also make sure to pay it off on time, as there might be late fees and different other financial penalties that will further complicate your debt problem. Your credit record will also get damaged if your payments are inconsistent and you are often late with them.
Prevent credit card debt by making sure to keep your finances simple. Use only one or two credit cards, if possible. The more cards you have the higher are the chances that you will not be able to pay them off in time. Never pay off one credit card balance with another credit card. If this happens, you need to drastically change your spending habits and come up with a good credit card management plan. Cash advances might sound attractive, but the truth is that they come with higher interest rates and you don’t get a grace period. There are also transaction fees to worry about.
The credit industry is extremely dynamic, and credit card issuers are always trying new ways to convince more people to sign up with their services. Different forms of rewards, life insurances, protection plans or point systems were created to make the credit card plans more attractive. Make sure you don’t let your emotional side dictate when you make a credit card related decision. Getting free gifts or free air miles sounds amazing, but is it really worth it? Try to base your choice on hard facts and a realistic financial plan, not on an advertising created fantasy.
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Gerald (CoachGee) Martin
President, MARSSS Credit Restorators
Credit Score Improvement Specialist
Board Certified Credit Consultant (BCCC)