Credit cards are extremely common and used by many Americans. Generally they let you charge a debt and then pay on a monthly basis, up to a pre-determined credit limit. There are both pros and cons to using these payment tools.
Credit cards can be very convenient. You may not feel comfortable carrying too much money. If the credit card gets lost or stolen you can stop it and may not be liable for it. If instead cash is stolen, you are unlikely to get it back. Also, you can buy things even if you do not have the money right now. It can be a good emergency method if an essential cost emerges.
You can also save money since you can delay payment. You can earn interest, dividends or other money on that money by keeping it a little longer.
Many credit cards have reward programs that give you cash back or other rewards. You may earn 1 or 2% back, which can add up quite substantially over time. You may get prizes, free flights or other prizes.
Credit cards will also often give you extra protection in case something goes wrong with the transaction. For instance, let’s say you buy something online and you can either mail in a check or pay with a credit card. If you never get the object and paid with a check then it will be very difficult to get your money back if the seller isn’t willing. If instead you paid by a credit card you can dispute the charge and will often be able to get your money back.
Some people spend too much money when using credit cards. It may not feel like you are spending as much money when you just swipe a card compared to when you actually count out the money. Many people find that they are more impulsive with their purchases.
It is very easy to spend more than you can afford and then get into trouble. If you pay with only cash then you obviously cannot pay with more than you have. When you use a credit card you can spend up until your credit limit even if you do not have money to actually pay it.
Credit card debt is not good debt to have. The interest rates can be astronomical and you may find that you are mostly paying the interest every month and slowly paying back what you owe. People get in big trouble and can even end up declaring bankruptcy. It can end up messing up your credit, which can affect you when you go to buy big ticket items such as a car or even a house.
Credit cards are not accepted at every place of business. You will sometimes have to pay cash, even if you have a credit card.
There are both advantages and disadvantages to using credit cards. Weigh these to decide when and how to use credit cards. If you do choose to get one, make sure to use it responsibly.