You are pre-approved! Every time I check my mail there is at least one or two pre-approved credit card applications. You get them too, I’m sure. You can even have terrible credit and they still continue to flood your mailbox. And if you just filed bankruptcy you will get more of them than you know what to do with!
Credit card debt is so easy to get into–over and over again. Most people don’t feel like they are spending real money until the bill comes, and then it’s too late. The credit card companies know how to make it very tempting to fall back on any good habits we’ve created and just spend away. It’s hard to get away from, but we have to resist temptation.
When establishing good credit, one of the things we’re told to do is to get a credit card and then use it to spend wisely. Experts advise us to pay our bills on time and not to exceed the credit limit. However, no one really talks to us when we get that first card about how easily and quickly we hit that limit, or how easy it is to miss that first monthly payment. Once you get behind, it can be really hard to catch up. Oftentimes, credit cards come with introductory interest rates that are nothing or very low. But many times, those rates soon change and you can find yourself with a full balance on your card with an 18 or 20 percent interest rate! That interest rate can then put you over your limit, if your not paying at least the minimum payment, now making you susceptible to over-the-limit fees. Before you know it, you are getting bad reports on your credit reports for credit card debt on a card that you haven’t even had very long.
Unfortunately, when times are hard, abusing credit cards is all too easy. When the economy is bad and cash is tight, it is all too easy to put your daily living expenses on your credit cards. If there is any kind of pattern like this in your credit card spending, it can build huge credit card debt pretty quickly. If you are not making your credit card payments, the credit card companies do inquiries to verify your address or other information. Every time they make an inquiry on your credit report, it makes you look like even more of a high risk, further worsening your credit history. All the credit card debt on your report, even if some of it is good, can make you look high risk for car loans or mortgages – especially if any of those cards hold high balances. Even worse, that bad credit report can keep you from renting an apartment or getting a job that requires a background check.
So keep in mind, as tempting as it may be to pay with a credit card, choose the “debit” option next time. It’s normal to risk it all when times are tough, but doing so creates more problems later that can take you years to fix. Credit card debt has long term risks, but if you use credit cards wisely, you can build credit that brings rewards instead.