You probably don’t need me to tell you credit cards are easy to get a hold of; at least, that is so in the US and UK. How many weeks pass without a glossy brochure promoting a credit card popping through your letter box? And that’s just your mail; the tv advertising budgets for credit card promotion are enormous, with some famous faces often adorning your screen, smiling beautifully as they tempt you. How does anyone resist that promotional onslaught, coupled with the peer pressure, and the have now, pay later culture in which we live? Well, the fact is, few people do resist. If you are credit worthy and have no credit card, you are something of a rarity.
Credit cards are almost as easy to get as your fruit and vegetables from the local supermarket. The thing is, you can have a bad credit history, and still get deluged with offers of easy credit. Even if you have just filed for bankruptcy, you may still get more offers of credit cards than you know what to do with!
Because of the ease of availability, credit card debt is all too easy to get into. Not just once, but over and over again. Partly it’s psychological, as we may not feel like we are spending real money. That is, until the chicken comes home to roost, and the bill comes. By then, of course, it’s too late; you have a debt for which you are legally responsible. The credit card companies have slick marketing departments who know we are weak, and that we may easily fall prey to temptation.
It is often recommended, when trying to establish a good credit report, that it is a good idea to get a credit card, and then use it to spend wisely. Experts will advise us to pay our bills on time, and never to exceed the credit limit. However, when you get you first credit card, nobody really goes to any real trouble to warn you, bluntly, of the pitfalls:
1. It is easy to be lured into spending up to the credit card’s limit; before you know it, that one moment of weakness a month has taken you up to the limit.
2. You may have a low interest rate to begin with, but that was an introductory offer; a lure; a bribe; to get your business and your money and tempt you more and more. Soon, the permanent interest rate will kick in. How does 20% pa sound? It could be that much. Were you warned how quickly that builds up? How the monthly interest alone may make it difficult for you to pay your monthly repayment every time, on time?
3. Close on your credit limit and with high interest charges, you miss a payment and go over the credit limit. Unknown to you, you are now getting black marks on your credit report
Unfortunately, when times are difficult, over use of credit cards is far too easy. If you are short of cash for any reason, it is easy to reach for the credit card. But if you find yourself tempted to use it for day to day expenses, then you are on the route to credit card debt problems that will mar your credit report for a long time to come. That can affect mortgage applications, car loan applications, and even your desire to move to a new apartment.
Always bear in mind that credit card debt has long term risks. If you have got this far without a credit card, think long and hard if you really need to apply for one. It is true that if you use credit cards wisely, you can build a credit history that brings rewards instead instead of risks. But the temptation is always there. Always remember that you are paying the bank for the privilege of having a credit card, and you are paying a high rate. If you think you may succumb to temptations too often, then be different: save as much as you can each month, and then if you hit upon hard times, you have the option of reaching for the savings account instead of the credit card fix. For non-cash convenience, you can use a debit card rather than credit card.
Roy Thomsitt is owner and part author of http://www.eliminate-credit-card-debt-now.com