Credit cards may seem like magic to some people – easy to use pieces of plastic that continue to provide you with money you may not have in your bank account yet. However, credit card debt comes with perhaps the steepest interest rate that an average person might be exposed to.
The average credit card interest rate as of May 2016 was 18.24%. If you perhaps used your credit card with a bit more jubilance than you should have and carry a balance every month, let’s take a look at exactly how much more money you’re paying than you need to. After we look at interest payments, we’ll give you some advice about how to make sure you not only use your credit card wisely but also benefit from using it.
Hopefully, you are at least able to pay the minimum payment on your credit card to avoid late penalties. Let’s say you have a balance of $1,000, but you’re not able to pay it off for a while and your credit card company requires at least a minimum payment of $35. If you only make the minimum payment every month, you will add $299 in interest to your balance by the time you pay it off.
Let’s take it up a bit and say that you have a $15,000 balance and your credit card company requires a minimum of $300 to pay it off. If you only pay $300 until that balance is paid, the interest will add up to $12,693! Whatever costs $15,000 will not cost $27,693! Dividing this into monthly payments, this amounts to $136 per month just in interest that is being tacked onto your balance. This is assuming you don’t use it at all before you pay it off as well.
These numbers can keep going, so at the end of the day, the goal is to make sure your credit card gets used wisely. So how might one go about doing this?
There are thousands of credit cards on the market. Each credit card company offers a wide range of cards with various rewards targeted at a particular kind of consumer. Do your research to find a card with rewards that match your lifestyle. Also, avoid an annual fee if you can, but make sure you’re not paying too much if you want to grab better rewards. Some credit cards are targeted specifically to businesses, and the annual fees for those will be exorbitant.
If you have carried a balance in the past and found it difficult even getting that taken care of, it might be in your best interest to make sure your balance is paid every month. This also helps raise your credit score the longer you keep up with your payments. This, in turn, may help you obtain a better interest rate for everything from mortgages to, you guessed it, credit cards.
In the interest of keeping up with your credit card balance, you can ask your credit card company to change the due date of your balance. Ideally, the date would coincide with your pay period so that you can automate the payments. Most credit card companies will offer customers the ability to set up automatic payments either for the minimum balance, a set amount, or the entire statement balance.
As mentioned above, most credit cards offer rewards of some kind in the form of points. You’ll earn a certain number of points for each dollar you spend using the credit card, and these points can be turned in for just about anything depending on the rewards structure of your credit card.
There are cash back cards that will either convert points into cash that is sent to your bank or you can use points to pay for items in your transactions list. Some credit cards benefit frequent travelers by putting points towards airfare with a particular carrier, rental cars, or even cruises. Focusing on rewards can help you remember to use your credit card and capture the rewards that benefit your lifestyle.
Credit cards may come with hefty interest payments for those you spend more than they can pay off each month. However, responsible credit card use is very easy to do. There are thousands of credit cards on the market that cater to many types of consumers, so shopping around is a great way to make sure you get the card that’s best for you. Not only that, but the rewards earned by using the right credit card can be a huge benefit.