Is Everything Good Also Bad?
It is always amazing to me how two different people can make equally compiling arguments for completely different points of view. As an example, I might argue that everything that is good could also be considered bad. Take the gas powered engine for instance. Many argument that this has been man's single greatest invention and has served as the catalyst for most of the world's economic expansion over the past 100 years. On the other hand, criticism argument that this samevention has caused irreparable damage to the environment in the form of global warming and pollution. A simple search of the internet results in a fairly compelling argument from the opposite point of view. In his book "Everything Bad is Good For You: How Today's Popular Culture is Actually Making Us Smarter", Steven Johnson argues that those things considered bad are in many ways good for you. One example he uses is that video games are making children smarter. Studies show video games make people more perceptive, training their brains to analyze things faster. If you believe that everything good can also be bad and that everything bad can also be good, you will agree with my hypothesis that credit cards can be very good financial tools but, used inappropriately, can be very, very bad.
What's Good About Credit Cards?
Let's begin by exploring some of the good aspects of credit cards. Credit cards are ubiquitous financial instruments. That is to say that they create a tremendous amount of flexibility and convenience. They are accepted almost everywhere things can be purchased. For me, convenience is one of the most appealing attributes of credit cards. In addition, used wisely there are a plethora of ways credit cardholders can benefit from the utilization of credit cards. These benefits come in the form of "rewards" that are accumulated in the form of cash-back rebates, airline miles, hotel rewards and points that can be incurred for merchandise. Most rewards are accrued at a rate of approximately $ 0.01 in cash value for every $ 1 in credit card spending. If used correctly, this "reward" will not cost the cardholder anything. There are additional attributes of credit cards that I consider to be good attributes. They can be used to make pledges to affinity groups. Some credit card institutions allow cardholders to donate a certain portion of rewards accrued to a special interest group. Additionally, credit cards serve as a very reliable source of emergency spending capacity. In the event of an emergency where some type of financial outlay must be made, credit cards can usually be used to cover that outlay. Producing particularly valuable for large emergency expenses where cash is not readily available. I could continue exploring the good aspects of credit cards but I am confident that I have appropriately made my point.
Could Credit Cards Really Be That Bad?
Let's now brief touch upon those attributes of credit cards that one could appeal are not-so-good or bad. If used carelessly, credit cards could create the single largest source of financial distress. Unbridled spending leads to a vicious financial cycle. This cycle involves spending beyond one's financial means, not being able to pay off the balance of the credit card, accruing interest on the unpaid balance and making the minimum required payment by the credit cards company to keep their account in good standing. In many instances, the combination of the interest accrued on the balance with the amount of the minimum payment leads to what looks like a lifelong journey of trying to pay off the balance but never feeling like you are making progress towards this end. In an even worse scenario some type of fee might accrue and the balance of interest accrued along with the minimum payment being made results in a phenomenon called "negative amortization". This term is used to describe the situation where the combination of fees and interest rates accrued, combined with the minimum payment being made results in the overall balance of the credit card account increasing and not decreasing. Many credit card companies are doing away with negative amortization but the phenomenon still exists so you need to be careful about not falling into this trap. Here again, I could continue discussing the ill effects of poor credit card management. In lieu of this though, my preference would be to move to the real focus of this article.
Unlocking The Good in Credit Cards
Here is a list of practices that could have been adopted by credit card users to unlock all that is good about credit cards.
- Only use your card to purchase those things which you have the cash to then payoff. If you need to use your card for an emergency that you do not have the cash to pay off the balance, make sure you put yourself on a disciplined budget until it is paid off.
- Set up electronic bill pay on your primary checking account. This will enable you to ensure on-time payments every month. Additionally, you will save yourself $ 0.39 per month and you will not have to worry about the anxiety of writing a check, getting it to the post office and expecting that the US Postal Service will get it to your credit card company on time.
- You only need one credit card. Yeah, I know it is sexy to open up that wallet and flash that cowhide full of plastic. I hate to break the bad news to you but the cashier behind the counter at Walmart does not care how many credit cards you have in your wallet. One credit card makes managing your finances easier and minimizes the probability that you will let credit card debt take over your life.
- Do not ever take a cash advance on your credit card or use those ridiculous checks that they send you in the mail. When you do either of these things, interest begins to accrue immediately and there is usually some type of fee or surcharge that is automatically accrued to your account balance. If you need cash, use your ATM. If you need a check, open up a checking account. If you do not have the cash do not buy it until you do.
- Credit cards want to avoid, at all costs, you from defaulting on your obligation but they like it when you carry a balance and accrue fees. As such, if your financial situation changes and you need your credit card for day-to-day expenses or you have already used it for day-to-day expenses and are having a hard time making your minimum payment, call them up and negotiate A mutually agreeable solution. Likewise, if a fee accidentally accrues, call them up and ask them to remove it. They would rather have you as a customer than not have you as one at all.
- If you like the idea of earning some type of rewards for your spending frequency, shop around. There are many, many different types of programs with an innumerable number of product characteristics. Do your research before opting for a rewards product that you think maybe meet your needs. When you do find a rewards product you like, do not apply for it online. Credit cards originated online are presumed by most credit card companies to be more risky and are priced with a higher interest rate and fee structure accordingly. Call the credit card company and ask them to put you on their solicitation list for the particular product you are interested in applying for.
- Do not ever sign up for any of the products offered as a "cross-sell" by credit card companies. They are offered via telemarketing, when you call into customer service or even as static offers on your credit card statement and on the envelope you use to mail in your payment (the little piece of paper that usually offers you a clock Radio of $ 29.95). These products are designed to create additional revenue streams for the credit card company. The economics of these products heavily favor the credit card company and only provide marginal benefit to the cardholder.
If you utilize these practices to help you manage your credit card as a financial instrument, there is no doubt that you will be in good shape. You may come to realize that your credit card could become a tool that you use to more effectively manage your finances. As such, you could have the beneficiary of all that is good with credit cards and none of what is bad about them.
For additional financial information and practical advice or for financial alternatives to credit cards, please visit our Lending Group at: http://www.prosper.com [https://www.prosper.com/]. Go to the "Groups" tab and then type "AddVenture Capital" in the keywords search box on the left of the screen.