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Credit Cards – Shoulder Angel, or Shoulder Demon?

You are an adult now.  18!  You made it!  Unfortunately, that means that people start bringing up adult-like things.  Such as credit cards.  Now, you might spring for one of those cards, after all, who wouldn’t want to spend money they don’t have yet?  But, before you sign that slip of paper or call the authorization number, take just one second and think if this is really a step into adulthood that you really want to make right now.

Read The Fine Print: Credit cards are not all equal.  Especially cards which are “pre-approved” tend to be pretty sketchy.  You need to read the fine print that you see on the 12 pages behind that first page.  You don’t need to know all of it, a lot of it will never crop up, but pay attention to things like “APR” and whether or not it is fixed.  APR really means the amount of extra money you are going to pay in interest on purchases.  So, the bigger that number, the more that card is going to cost you.  Of course, in college you are not really going to have the credit score to be able to get a really low rated card, but get the lowest you can.

Weigh The Extra Benefits:  It’s hard to find a normal credit card these days.  They all offer cash-back, airline credits, or money donated to important causes.  However, a lot of those cards can afford that because of the money that you are donating to the card themselves.  Extra benefits are going to come at a higher cost – usually factored into the APR.  So, a card that gives you 1% cash back, and charges you 25% interest is really not as great a deal as it sounds.

Different Type Of Debt: Although it may feel like your credit card debt is just like your student loans, or the car loan that you got, this credit functions differently, and it isn’t just your APR.  Monthly payments on a car loan are figured to help you eventually pay off that debt.  Credit card monthly payments are geared to pay off your gaining interest.  Credit companies also evaluate that type of debt differently.  While 20 Grand in student debt raises your future value, 20 grand in credit card debt takes you down.

All of that doesn’t mean that you can’t get a credit card – just that you have to be careful when you do.  Signing on to one that you can afford is a good start.  Keeping on top of it is another important thing.  Keeping a credit card, and paying it off in full every month, actually raises your credit.  But, that means that you can’t ever swipe the card for more money than you have in your bank account.  Credit cards give you the feeling of magic money, and it can be tempting to spend, spend, spend.  But, if you budget around your credit card and are careful to not misuse it, you could find yourself in a better place than you were before.

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April 23, 2012 um 11:17 am
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