While often maligned as conduits to debt and overleveraging, credit cards truly are quite useful. Whether it’s building the credit history necessary to convince a bank you are trustworthy enough to merit a loan or effectively lowering the price of all your purchases through rewards, a credit card has the potential to improve all aspects of your finances.
What’s more, the credit card industry is perhaps as fundamentally strong as it’s ever been. The bait-and-switch tactics that pervaded before the Great Recession are no more. Gone as well is the once-widespread lack of transparency from issuers. In their place is the Credit Card Act of 2009, which has expanded and strengthened the consumer credit card bill of rights and fostered a what-you-see-is-what-you-get system for credit card offers.
Some reasons to use a credit card are universally applicable to all card types while some pertain only to business credit cards or stictly to consumer cards. However, no matter whether what type of card is in your wallet – whether its a credit card for excellent credit or a second chance credit card – there’s no shortage of reasons to use this type of spending vehicle. Please find some of the top reasons below:
- Credit building
- Pay over time
- Balance transfers
- Tracking business spending
- Theft protection
- Currency exchange rates
- Giving employees cards with customizable limits
- Improving financial literacy
- Shopping online
- Car rentals
- The CARD Act
- Credit building – Information about credit card use is sent to the major credit bureaus on a monthly basis, allowing you to build a solid history or effectively devalue any mistakes relatively quickly.
- Rewards – Whether they’re in the form of cash back, airline miles, hotel points or gas rebates, many credit cards provide rewards that not only help subsidize the cost of purchases, but also provide certain unqiue amenities. By signing up for a rewards credit card, you are effectively joining a group for which membership has its perks. For example, some cards provide discounts and exclusive access to shows, ball games and concerts; VIP treatment in airports and hotels; concierge services; special gifts; and much more.
- Convenience – You don’t want to always carry cash around, especially not enough to make big-ticket purchases. Not only is a credit card easier to conceal and carry, but it’s also a lot easier to keep tabs on a card than the exact amount of cash you have with you. In the unfortunate event your credit card is lost or stolen, you aren’t liable for any unauthorized charges and therefore aren’t out any money. You can’t say the same for cash.
- Pay over time – For most people there comes a time, for whatever reason, that we need a few extra months to fully pay off something that we need to purchase. A credit card not only provides that ability, but — depending on your credit standing — might allow you to do that without paying any interest by utilizing a 0% APR credit card.
- Balance transfers – If you already have debt (not necessarily credit-card oriented), 0% balance transfer credit card offers represent one of the easiest ways to lower the cost of your interest charges.
- Tracking business spending – Business credit cards are tailored to help small business owners track and manage business spending.
- Theft protection – Credit cards have $0 liability, meaning you won’t lose any money if your card gets lost or stolen. What happens when such things happen with cash?
- Time – You have at least 21 days from the time you receive your credit card bill each month to pay it. This means that you don’t have to actually outlay your own money for any given purchase you make for 21-51 days. This not only helps your cash flow, but also comes in handy in the rare event that you detect unauthorized charges on your account. A credit card gives you a substantial buffer to sort out any problems before they truly affect your bank account and the rest of your finances.
- Currency exchange rates – Credit cards are great for foreign travel because Visa and MasterCard automatically provide some of the best exchange rates possible. While 90.2% of credit cards have fees for transactions processed abroad, these fees can easily be avoided with no foreign transaction fee credit cards. As long as you also steer clear of dynamic currency conversion, a credit card will be a useful, cost-saving travel tool.
- Giving employees cards with customizable limits – Business credit cards allow you to give employees cards with customizable limits that you, as the owner, earn rewards on.
- Improving financial literacy – Credit cards are an important aspect of teaching your kids financial literacy. If used right by parents, they can be an excellent tool for teaching kids not to spend beyond their means even if given the ability to do so.
- Shopping online – You need some sort of plastic to purchase things off the Internet, and while credit cards and debit cards both provide $0 liability, credit cards make fraud much easier to deal with.
- Car rentals – A credit card is needed to rent a car since car rental companies require protection against people failing to return cars in the condition they received it.
- The CARD Act (applicable only to consumer credit cards) – The Credit CARD Act of 2009 is itself one of the biggest reasons to use a credit card. Because of it, you no longer have to worry about getting a credit card and having the majority of your credit line be consumed by fees or having your interest rates increased without cause.
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