Credit cards get a bum rap sometimes.
Yes, they can charge high interest and have exorbitant fees, but if you pay your balance every month and on time you aren’t affected. For a vast number of people, cards cards are a great tool which comes with some nice benefits.
Here are some benefits of using a credit card:
This is the big one, isn’t it?
A credit card allows you to pay on the spot without having to carry cash. Let’s face it, if you are making a big purchase you don’t want to carry cash around. Even if you have a small purchase a credit card can be helpful. And in today’s age of online shopping a credit card is almost a must-have.
A credit card basically gives you a loan on the spot to cover the cost of your purchase. As long as you pay your balance in full then there are no fees. Awesome convenience!
Build Credit History
Using a credit card properly can go a long ways to building up your credit history which in turn will build up your credit score. Think about it – by using your credit card you may be making future purchases cheaper!
The better your credit score the lower the interest you will be charged on loans such as a car purchase or a home mortgage.
Track Your Spending
It would be wonderful if we all would write down all of our cash purchases to keep track of our spending habits. But the reality is we don’t.
When you use a credit card you can track your spending on your monthly payments. Some companies will even give you a list of your purchases for the year, or some time period, and break it out by category or retailer. I recently checked my history on my American Express Blue Card and was amazed at how my spending broke out (we spent a lot at BJ’s Wholesale last year, for instance).
Come tax time, having a record of expenses purchases is a great help in putting tax records together!
Easy To Pay Off
Paying off a credit card is easy.
All you need is to set up a bank account to transfer funds from (we transfer from out ING Direct savings). You don’t even have to wait for your monthly bill. Back in the day you had to write out a check usually.
If you have a credit card where you have your checking you might even be able to pay at an ATM or with an easy account transfer.
Just make sure you don’t charge more than you can afford each month!
0% Interest Rate Offers
If you keep an eye out you can find 0% interest credit cards.
Why open another credit card?
Credit card arbitrage! You can take advantage of the 0% and earn money.
Say you open a 0% interest credit card, when you make purchases pay the minimum when the bill is due. Take the balance of the payment and put it into a high yield savings account. You get to earn interest on what would otherwise be spent money. Just make sure to pay your credit card bills on time, and pay the entire balance before the 0% interest rate ends, otherwise you pay interest on the entire balance you had.
We used a 0% credit card for our wedding costs, earned money on the purchase balance, and cashed in our…
Rewards Points or Cash Back
Many credit cards offer either rewards points or cash back (or both).
Not that you should go out of your way to use your credit card, but having the benefit of rewards points or cash back is a nice bonus.
We’ve used rewards points to get a number of gift certificates for different retailers. Our example about credit card arbitrage? Besides earning money on the 0% interest rate, we also were able to cash in points to help pay for new furniture!
For some, rewards points aren’t important. What they want are airline miles!
Every purchase helps build points towards airline miles which can be cashed in for plane tickets. This can be very beneficial for those who love to travel and use their credit card wisely!
Nowadays, many cards are offering extended warranties on items you buy with their credit card. This can be a great benefit on items like electronics. Make sure you read the details to see what exactly is covered.
Car Rental Insurance
Another nice benefit is car rental insurance for cars rented using a company’s credit card. Not all cards offer this, and you need to know the details of the coverage, but this can be nice to have when you travel and rent a car.
Credit card companies frequently have exclusive programs that are available only to people who carry their card.
Sometimes this could be extreme discounts on certain products. We’ve gotten tickets to concerts we would not have otherwise been able to get if it weren’t for our credit card (Prince comes to mind). We’ve also gotten a free magazine subscription or two as well.
Keep an eye out for extras your card may offer (may sure you know the fine print as well).
Some cards will give you the difference in price of a purchase if you find the product you bought cheaper within a certain period, like 30 or 60 days. Imagine its near the holidays and you buy a gift. Two weeks later there’s a crazy sale and it’s half off! You want to kick yourself for not waiting, but if you have price protection you just might get the difference back.
Some of the more prestigious cards (read: higher fees) offer concierge services with their credit card. This could be an extremely helpful service if used well. Just make sure the concierge service justifies the probable fee for the card!
Look, I know credit cards can be killer for a LOT of people. But credit cards are not always evil and sometimes the blame of credit card debt falls more on the consumer than the credit card company.
For a lot of people, who use their credit cards responsibly, there are a ton of benefits that are both helpful and really cool!