Too much of a good thing, we all know, can be bad. Credit cards are no different. The ability to swipe plastic, knowing you don’t have to pay until later, for a lot of people, can be almost like a drug. I know of what I speak. When I was young, I was a microwave person. I got into trouble with credit cards because I wanted what I wanted when I wanted it. Confession, I still possess this negative trait. Fortunately, the older I get, the more responsible I am. Maybe if I live to be 100, I’ll have it all figured out and under control.
Convenience, of course, is the obvious benefit of credit. There are other pros of using plastic that just may outweigh the cons, but only if discipline is used.
In this age when identity theft looms large, an almost vital benefit of using plastic over cash is security. If your card has been stolen, or you suspect a fraudulent charge, informing your credit card company immediately can safeguard you against being on the hook for charges you didn’t make. On its website, the Federal Trade Commission has some tips on keeping your credit cards safe, including carrying cards separately from wallets or purses, saving all receipts in order to compare with statements, and being hyper-vigilant when you hand over plastic … keep your eye on your card every second of a transaction.
Most credit card companies offer a myriad of perks, including special discounts and even money back on certain purchases. Discounts on gas, car rentals, and travel insurance can come in handy on vacation. Of course, free miles can be one of the biggest benefits of using a credit card over cash. They are recommended to those who travel frequently, as these cards can have high interest rates.
Gift cards and cash rewards
With all the competition in the credit card industry these days, if you’re thinking of getting a new card, you can almost certainly find one that will give you a perk right off the bat of a gift card or rewards points just for opening a new account. A little extra money, especially during the holiday season, can be a great help to a family on a tight budget.
Instant gratification isn’t the only benefit of using plastic over cash, but credit card use always carries with it a caveat. Financial expert, Suze Orman, says the pull credit cards have on some of us can be “almost as strong as a narcotic, as tobacco, as well as alcohol.” Vigilance and discipline are always key.