How to Use Your New Credit Card Without Accumulating Debt

| January 11, 2014 | 0 Comments

Credit cardToday’s average consumer owes $28,000 on credit cards and loans, Experian’s latest State of Credit update reports. Most adults born after 1980 will never repay this due to poor budgeting habits, a 2013 Ohio State University study predicts. While there are ways to work yourself out of this situation, if you’re a new credit card user, the best strategy is to avoid accumulating such debt in the first place. Get started with the following guidelines:

Build Your Credit Card Into Your Budget

The foundation of effective credit card management is good overall budgeting. Harvard bankruptcy expert Elizabeth Warren recommends a 50/30/20 budgeting strategy, devoting 50 percent of your monthly income to necessities, 30 percent to discretionary items and 20 percent to building savings and repaying debt.

Applying this, your minimum monthly credit payment falls within the 50 percent category, while any payments beyond this fall under the 20 percent category. Keep your monthly credit obligations low enough that half of your income is sufficient to pay both your minimum and other necessities. Leave enough in the 20 percent category to cover your monthly savings goals as well as any credit payments beyond your minimum.

Use a Low-Interest Card

To apply this, it’s vital to limit your spending, starting by selecting a card with a low interest rate. Many cards offer a low introductory rate that increases after a set period. Pay attention to the fine print to manage this increase. The Better Business Bureau advises shopping for a vendor who offers an ongoing low interest rate. CreditCards.com provides a guide to low-interest cards.

Look for Other Financing Options First

Even with low interest rates, the best way to keep payments low is minimizing credit purchases. Financial expert Dave Ramsey recommends using cash or debit instead of credit for most everyday purchases. However, debit cards can put a temporary hold on your account when used for gas, hotels and car rentals, and they offer less protection for large or online purchases. These are situations where credit cards are preferable.

Another option: If you’re entitled to annuity or structured settlement payments, inquire with a company like J.G. Wentworth to potentially purchase your future payments for a lump sum of cash now. You can then use this money to buy what you need, without using credit or debit cards, and you can use any extra money to pay down your existing debt.

Keep Your Balance Low

When you make credit purchases, the best way to minimize debt is keeping balances low. Restrain your purchases within the 50/30/20 rule, so you can repay them as soon as possible. To maintain your credit rating, keep your balance within 10 to 20 percent of your limit, FICO spokesman Anthony Sprauve advises. This will also help you avoid exceeding your limit.

Never Pay Late

Your credit score will drop and your interest rate will rise if you’re late on a payment, and you’ll also incur late fees. To avoid this, adjust your due date to a time of the month you have funds available, and then set up automated payments. If you do anticipate a late payment, call your provider to make payment arrangements and see if you get your late fee waived.

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Category: Credit Cards

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