Save Your Credit Score: Treat Credit Cards Like Debit

Everyone uses credit cards maybe a little too much. In the United States, the collective credit card debt total in 2015 reached $60 billion. The average household credit card balance is at almost $7,200. Some of this debt is necessary. Some Americans charge medical and emergency expenses to credit cards. However, a lot of this debt is just frivolous and unnecessary spending. But there's one surefire way to control your credit card debt.


Just treat your credit cards like another debit card. Don't charge more to it than what's in your checking account. This method works for a couple of reasons. First, you'll never charge more to your card than you can afford to pay back. Second, you'll never have to pay interest on outstanding balances.

When you use a credit card, you are essentially borrowing money from whatever bank backs your card. You have paid for the item, but you still have to pay back the money you borrowed. Most loans have a minimum balance set that you have to pay on time every month to avoid a default. Credit cards have this too, but they are usually very low. Most cards require a minimum payment of at least $25 a month. This is one of the biggest culprits of spiraling credit card debt. Why pay more than $25 if you can avoid it?

Also, just paying the minimum required leads to carrying a balance on the card. This outstanding balance still counts toward your credit limit. You shouldn't be charging too much to your card anyway, but the outstanding balance will further limit the amount you can charge. Not to mention charging more than about 30 percent of your credit limit will reflect poorly on your credit score. It's best to keep this as low as possible anyway.

Let's not forget about interest. Carrying a balance from month to month causes interest charges to be added to your account. Depending on your credit score, most cards charge between 13 and 20 percent interest. This really adds up quickly when you have a bigger balance. Fifteen percent interest on a balance of $100 is just an extra $15. But 15 percent interest on $400 is another $60. And you can be charged interest on the new increased balance the next month if you don't pay it off in time. If you keep this going for awhile, you could easily rack up a huge, overbearing balance. It's just not worth it to carry a balance month to month on a credit card.

But still, the most effective way to avoid stacking up a lot of debt is to just not use credit cards at all. Or very sparingly. If you don't think you can control your spending, it's best to just not use credit cards at all.

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