There are many advantages and disadvantages of credit cards, but the advantages largely outweigh the disadvantages because bad outcomes are easily avoidable. Credit cards are a convenient way to build credit, finance purchases, convert currency and more. But they can also lead to expensive debt if used irresponsibly, and that could lead to costly credit score damage. There are plenty of other good and bad things to be said about credit cards when you really put them under the microscope. So let’s dive into some of the biggest pros and cons.
Here are the biggest advantages of credit cards:
Credit building. Credit card issuers report your account details (utilization, payment, etc.) to major credit bureaus every month. This gives you a regular opportunity to add positive information to your credit reports, which will improve your credit standing. You can even benefit simply by opening a credit card and locking it in a drawer. Having a positive credit history will make a lot of your biggest decisions in life go smoother. You’ll more easily be able to purchase a car or a home, and you may even have better employment chances.
Convenience. If you have a credit card, you don’t need to worry about carrying lots of cash at all times. Most merchants accept credit cards. And unlike cash, credit cards are easily replaceable and give you a $0 liability guarantee for fraudulent transactions. They also allow you to make purchases now and pay later.
Rewards. Credit cards often reward you for buying things by giving you cash back, miles or points. This can lead to savings on trips, merchandise, gift cards or your credit card bill in the future.
Benefits. Credit cards usually come with some benefits built into them for no extra cost. For example, you might get insurance for car rentals and accidents while traveling. You might get purchase protection to replace damaged or stolen items you bought with your card. And your purchases could receive extended warranties, among other perks that vary card to card.
Here are the biggest disadvantages of credit cards:
Easy to overspend. Since you’re not using physical money or a checkbook and don’t have to pay right away, credit card purchases may not feel quite as expensive when you make them. So it’s easy for balances to get away from you if you’re not careful. One of the best ways to avoid overspending with a credit card is to use the Island Approach. That means using one credit card for nothing but everyday purchases that you should be able to pay off by the due date every month. If interest charges ever show up on that account, it will mean you’ve been overspending. If you have a credit card balance that you’re carrying from month to month, or you’re planning to make a purchase that will lead to one, you should use a separate card for that. This will help you get the best collection of credit card terms, save more money and avoid spending too much. Making a budget and tracking your spending to keep yourself honest is a wise idea, too.
High interest rates. If you don’t pay your balance in full by the due date, you will have to pay interest to the credit card company. And those interest charges will accrue at a very high rate. The average interest rate for all new credit card offers is 18.78%. The more interest charges you rack up, the higher your minimum monthly bill payments will be. And missed payments can lead to even more costly penalty rates as well as credit score damage.
Fraud. Fraudsters couldsteal your credit card number and make purchases in your name. But so long as you report any such transactions, you won’t have to pay for them.
Confusing terms. Credit card terms and conditions aren’t always the easiest to understand. In some cases, people end up being surprised by certain interest rates, charges or limits because the credit card company presented them in a confusing manner. The best way to avoid such a fate is to do your research when choosing an account. Focus on the types of things that are likely to affect you most, based on how you plan to use the card. WalletHub has also done lots of research on the credit card market, including a complete breakdown of the various benefits each major credit card issuer offers with its cards. Hopefully, that will help you better understand what you’re getting into.
Multiple ways to hurt your credit. It’s not just missing payments that will hurt you. Applying for a card causes your score to dip temporarily, and using over 30% of your credit line is also bad for your credit. But setting up automatic monthly payments from a bank account, not applying for a new account in the months leading up to mortgage shopping, and either spending less or paying your bill more should help you avoid negative outcomes.
You should get a credit card. It will make everyday spending more convenient and can help you improve your credit standing. But at the same time, you should be aware of the drawbacks and sure to protect yourself. As long as you spend reasonably, pay off your purchases, check your credit report and score often and keep your utilization at a good level, you should benefit greatly.
The advantages are that you don't have to worry about carrying cash, you have a record of your spending, you can make purchases even if you don't actually have the money, some credit cards give you rewards, and most importantly you get to build your credit, provided you pay the bill on time.
The disadvantages would be the temptation to overspend, the interest rate you pay if you don't pay your bill in full, and of course the fact that most credit cards have fees.
The best part is that you get to buy things without having the money right away. That's basically the point of all credit, cards just make it a lot easier!
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