CBS Money Watch reports that the number of Americans who can afford to pay off their credit cards continues to drop, and just 51% of Americans have enough cash to clear themselves of credit card debt.1
We sometimes don’t have a choice and must rely on credit cards. But if you find yourself reaching for plastic more often than you’d like to, remember that there are ways to make credit card usage safer, smarter and less costly in the long run.
Consider a card that offers cashback
Look for offers like cards that give cashback on credit card purchases. It is, in a sense, like getting paid to spend – although obviously it makes sense to only purchase the things you really need, even if you are getting a portion of your money back. Look for other cards offering similar rewards by checking out Nerd Wallet for cashback card comparisons.
Check the interest rate before you sign-up
If you know for a fact that you can pay off a large purchase within a specified amount of time, it may make sense to consider purchasing it with a card that offers a 0% interest rate for a fixed period of time.
Just make sure that you can pay off the full amount within that specified time frame or you’ll be paying off the remainder with the full interest rate, which could be higher than 18% depending on your credit card.
Out of sight, out of mind
A credit card can get you out of a jam, but it can also get you into one. If you know you’re someone who is easily tempted by the availability of credit, leave that card at home.
Do more than the bare minimum
If you have a hefty credit card balance, try as hard as you can to pay more than just the minimum amount each month. Sure, paying the minimum is all you’re required to do, but that means you’ll be paying those high interest fees for much longer than you otherwise would.
Negotiate your interest rate
Your credit card company may not be willing to lower your interest rate, but it never hurts to ask. Do a bit of research before calling to find out what interest rates other companies offer, and don’t take the first “no” for an answer. Ask to speak to a manager and politely continue to escalate your request up the chain until you’re talking to someone who has the authority to consider making the change you require. Try calling again in a month or so if you don’t get the answer you’re hoping for.
If you are concerned about your credit card debt and other financial issues, and you want to speak to a professional who can give you some advice, don’t forget that as a Foresters Financial member you have access to Everyday Money, our toll-free financial helpline that connects you to an accredited counselor who can help answer your questions about your personal financial matters such as debt management and budgeting.
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