About 18 years ago, collectors were calling me regularly about my mountain of debt. Fortunately, I turned that situation around. I made sure to pay my credit card in full monthly. But, I realized that I still tended to overspend with it, and the fear of making the same mistakes with credit still haunted me. I didn’t completely trust myself.
Around the same time, I began facilitating a financial literacy course in which the money guru vilified credit cards and strongly insisted his students cut them up. So, I did. I vowed to live only on cash and my debt card. And, for 15 years, my husband Nick and I did just that.
Read More: How to Destroy a Credit Card
Now, both of us are back to plastic after 15 years credit card-free. Why? For my husband, the low transaction limit on his debit card made large purchases a hassle, even though there was plenty of money in the bank. Nick had to call the bank each time he needed to temporarily raise to the $1,000 transaction limit imposed by our credit union. He applied for a credit card for the sake of convenience, and I knew he’d always pay it in full. Nick is a very careful shopper who researches his purchases and rarely makes impulse buys.
Several months later, I decided I could finally trust myself with a credit card and applied for a low-limit card (just $1,000). There are many reasons I decided to do this. Nick and are going to buy a new house within the next two years. Before we went back to plastic, the only source on our credit report was our mortgage. Banks like to see three to four sources of credit to give you the most favorable terms and interest rates.
Learn More: How to Get the Best Mortgage Rate
I also like the extra layers of protection offered by credit cards versus debit cards. If my card is lost or stolen and used by someone else, my bank account funds are not exposed. Right now, I’m primarily using my credit card for gas (skimmers on gas pumps are big sources of theft of credit and debt information), groceries and household items — things on which I’m not tempted to overspend.
Let’s not forget the rewards and cash-back benefits of credit cards, either. Within the last year, my husband cashed in $475 in gift cards from his rewards program, and he currently has about $85 worth of unused rewards in his account. The credit card I chose is affiliated with a website where I purchase the majority of our cleaning products, personal care items and vitamins. I earned a $100 bonus by signing up, plus I earn 6 percent back when I use the card for purchases at that website. I earn 4 percent on gas and groceries and 2 percent everywhere else. My rewards aren’t cash or gift cards, but free credits to the website. I typically have $45 a month in free credits to apply to my orders. So, within a year, I’ll easily receive $600 in free merchandise I would have purchased for our household anyway. We all need laundry detergent and shampoo, right? Why not get it for free?
More on Spending: 15 Ways Americans Are Spending Their Money
So, after 15 years sans credit cards, my husband and I have concluded that the benefits of going back to plastic are worth it for us. The almost $100 per month of cash back and rewards, extra layers of fraud protection and keeping our credit reports active, these are all benefits we love. We have more than enough money in our savings accounts to pay off any amount we charge, so I’m not worried about that.
The bottom line is the payment method isn’t the problem; it’s your underlying mindset and behaviors with debt and money. Only you can decide if you can handle a credit card responsibly.
Read More: Best Cash-Back Credit Cards
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