Financial Tips | Debt Management

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11/8/07

The Credit Card Trap

I advocate owning and using credit cards. I believe that if a person uses credit responsibly, they can greatly benefit from such use by way of a high credit score and a strong credit report. However, there are two common, credit card blunders that many people make. If you avoid these two common blunders, you can avoid the credit card trap of creating more debt than you can handle.

The first most common mistake that many people make is that they only pay the minimum payment due. Paying only the minimum payment is the worst thing you can do, monetarily. If you make consistent, on time, minimum payments, your credit score will positively reflect such. However, your bank account will negatively reflect the same also. If you only pay the minimum payment, you should just take your balance and double it because this is the true amount you will probably pay. By paying only the minimum payment, you are basically only paying the interest. For example, if you had an outstanding balance of $1,500 at 12% interest, and you paid only the minimum payment of $20 per month, it would take you over 11 years to pay off the debt. Additionally, you will have paid over $1,200 in interest in addition to the $1,500 balance. Therefore, a balance of $1,500 cost you $2,700 to pay off. That minimum payment is not looking so good anymore is it?

The second most common mistake people make is that they use a credit card to pay the bill of another credit card. This practice baffles me. If you use a credit card to pay the bill of another credit card in order to obtain rewards points, and you pay off the second card in full each month, then paying a credit card with a credit card makes sense. However, this is not the situation to which I am referring. The mistake people make is when they pay a credit card with another credit card because they do not have the money to pay the bill of the first card. All a person is doing is making the situation worse. By using credit cards to pay off credit cards, a person is actually making the debt larger due to interest. Why do that to yourself?

Avoiding these two very common credit mistakes will help you practice responsible credit use and will also help you avoid the credit trap.

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