Credit cards really come in handy when you find yourself in a bind and need to make unexpected purchases or you enjoy the perks, such as flyer miles or cashback rewards. However, some might prefer purchase protection.
If you use your credit card the right way and pay off the balances every month, interest might be a thing of the past, and you’ll never have to pay it. Swiping your credit card can be a blessing and a curse – especially if you have mounting debt and struggling to manage your finances.
There are thousands of people swimming in credit card debt, but there is a way out! Make your debt manageable and avoid these six major credit card mistakes.
1- Only Making Credit Card Balance Minimum
While it might be tempting to save the extra money by making the bare minimum payments when going through financial difficulty, it is a huge no-no. Credit card companies want you to pay the bare minimum so they can continue to make the bill grow each month by adding high-interest rates.
Each month, send the highest payment you can afford as opposed to the bare minimum and reduce spending. That extra handbag might cost you more than they are worth. Remember that you are saving money by increasing credit card payments even if it doesn’t feel that way. You can save around 10% to 29% each year on interest, depending on the card’s current interest rate.
Paying off your credit card will help free up extra cash, so you have breathing room to save for an emergency fund and pay other debts.
2- Use Credit Cards for Everyday Items
People often fall into the same trap of using their credit cards for everyday items, such as fuel or groceries. These items should already be in your budget, and you can get comfortable charging these items and then spending the money intended for them on other things. Your cost of living then increases, and you end up with more debt in the long run.
Consider this: $10 bread and milk trip will cost you $40 if you don’t pay the balance each month. The balance will continue to gain interest, and you have spent a fortune on non-discretionary items at the end of the day. So, keep everyday items off the credit card to avoid incurring interest on them.
3- Chasing Rewards and Incentives
Earning those bonuses and perks is great. Who doesn’t want extra flyer miles for their next vacation, but they end up being worth less than the additional interest you incur if you aren’t paying off your credit card or you keep maxing it out. The rewards are not worth the risk.
For example, let’s assume you receive a point for every dollar you spend. To receive a 10% discount on a plane ticket, you will need 5,000 points. The $100 you saved on the discount is not worth the amount you have to spend and the interest incurred.
Regardless of the bonus, they offer, avoid signing up for multiple credit cards – especially if you are currently having difficulty managing them. You will find yourself missing payments adding late fees to the interest fees.
4- Cash Advances
A big hustle from credit card companies is sending checks to their consumers, encouraging them to spend it on bills. Maybe they tell you to treat yourself to a weekend away with your loved ones. But, unfortunately, customers don’t realize that the fine print states that the check is treated the same as a cash advance.
A cash advance starts acquiring interest right away, and they don’t offer you a grace period. They can also charge you an automatic fee of 4% of the amount of the advance. When you get them, throw them out right away!
5- Ignoring the Debt
It is natural to feel embarrassed about debt. Many people also feel stressed about their debt and try to avoid it altogether. Ignoring debt is like a ticking time bomb – eventually, it will explode, and you end up with the uncontrollable interest that can take years to pay. Missing a payment can also cause the interest to skyrocket because it is written in the fine print of the terms of the agreement.
Consider negotiating your credit card debt and getting the interest rates lowered. They will usually set a payment plan or even reduce some of the interest that has been incurred. If the first representative doesn’t bring an acceptable payback plan to the table, keep calling as the next representative might come up with a better deal.
Ignoring your credit card debt might give you temporary relief from the stress, but it won’t make the problem go away. Debt collectors can be knocking on your door every week waiting for payment and expect your credit score to lower too.
Lastly, don’t let being embarrassed about credit card debt stop you from taking action. Your peer might be facing the same thing as you and seek support from loved ones.
6- Late Payments
Late payments will make your debt stack up faster than you can pay it off. Credit card companies add a late fee to the consumer’s debt, and the amount is often similar to the monthly payment. This fee will then also continue to incur interest.
If you can avoid it, never have late payments. Know when your bill is due and try to pay it beforehand. Add it to a reminder on your phone or write it on the calendar. It is the one debt you don’t want to add to with late fees.
Having a credit card is helpful in those emergencies or building your credit score, but it is easy to fall into debt and mounting interest. Read the terms of conditions from multiple companies and understand the fine print. That way, if you fall on hardships, you know the best course of action to take.
Getting credit card debt under control takes time and a lot of self-control. But you can by changing your spending and payback habits! Let credit cards work for you – not against you! Avoid making these common mistakes and use your cards responsibly.