Depending on who you talk to, the words, "credit card" mean one of two things: "danger zone" or "freedom, baby!" Having a credit card is both a blessing and a curse. Yes, it can encourage you to spend a little more freely without having to feel the burn right away, but it can also give you a rude awakening when you receive your monthly bill.
Let's take it back to 1920s America. It was the era of flappers, great jazz, and modern-day conveniences, like movies and cars. More leisure time and new financing options like generous bank loans and buying on credit, made people spend well beyond their means. For nearly a decade, everyone was buying like crazy. But unfortunately, that came to a tragic halt in October of 1929. Bummer.
Since then, the United States has ebbed and flowed in moments of economic prosperity and recession. But one practice that all Americans can do is establish responsibility with their credit. And responsibility is not necessarily something that everyone has once they turn eighteen and can legally apply for a credit card.
To qualify for a credit card, you must have a steady source of income that will prove to your bank that you can pay your bills on time and not drown in credit card debt. If you're so inclined to start early, there are special student or retail credit cards that may have easier qualifications. (Yes, you can still apply for a credit card if you have no credit.)
The most important thing to understand when you apply for a credit card is that it gives you a high risk of debt. But, if you are able to pay your bills on time, you can build your credit and qualify for greater purchases down the line. You'll have to have a strong credit score to buy a house, apply for a mortgage, or even to seek employment in certain domains. You can achieve this by starting off strong. Know your limitations by crafting a thoughtful budget. Here's a great budgeting resource to get you started.
While debit cards take money out immediately from your account, they don't help you build credit. To see if you're ready to pay a monthly credit card bill, total up all of your expenses month to month, and find the average. Then, see if you can save that amount every month. But the best way to get started is to find out as much information as you can. If you think you're ready for a credit card, then you need to figure out which card will be best for you.
Are you ready? Put your credit card knowledge to the test with this quiz!
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When you take out a loan for a car, charge something to your credit card, or get a personal line of credit, there is going to be an interest rate that applies to your loan.
A lot of different factors go into what you will be charged, including your own personal credit score. But even those with flawless credit still see a minimum charge that they can't get around. That all goes back to the Federal Funds Rate.
One thing consumers rarely realize is that all of our banks are lending money to each other every night. Banks are legally required to maintain a certain percentage of their deposits in non-interest-bearing accounts at the Federal Reserve to ensure they have enough money to cover any withdrawals that may unexpectedly come up. However, deposits can fluctuate and it's very common for some banks to exceed the requirement on certain days while some fall short. In cases like this, banks actually lend each other money to ensure they meet the minimum balance. It's a bit hard to imagine these multibillion-dollar financial institutions needing to borrow money to tide them over for a bit, but it happens every single night at the Federal Reserve. It's also a nice deal for those with balances above the reserve balance requirement to earn a bit of money with cash that would normally just be sitting there.
The Federal Reserve
The exact interest rate the banks will charge each other is a matter of negotiation between them, but the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) (the arm of the Federal Reserve that sets monetary policy) meets eight times a year to set a target rate. They evaluate a multitude of economic indicators including unemployment, inflation, and consumer confidence to decide the best rate to keep the country in business. The weighted average of all interest rates across these interbank loans is the effective federal funds rate.
This rate has a huge impact on the economy overall as well as your personal finances. The federal funds rate is essentially the cheapest money available to a bank and that feeds into all of the other loans they make. Banks will add a slight upcharge to the rate set by the Fed to determine what is the lowest interest that they will announce for their most creditworthy customers, also known as the prime rate. If you have a variable interest rate loan (very common with credit cards and some student loans), it's likely that the interest rate you pay is a set percentage on top of that prime rate that your lender is paying. That's why in times of low interest rates (it was set at 0% during the Great Recession), a lot of borrowers should go for fixed interest rate loans that won't increase. However, if the federal funds rate was relatively high (it went up to 20% in the early 1980's), a variable interest rate loan may be a better decision as you would be charged less interest should the rate drop without the need to refinance.
The federal funds rate also has a major impact on your investment portfolio. The stock market reacts very strongly to any changes in interest rates from the Federal Reserve, as a lower rate makes it cheaper for companies to borrow and reinvest while a higher rate may restrict capital and slow short-term growth. If you have a significant portion of your investments in equities, a small change in the federal funds rate can have a large impact on your net worth.
Whether you're leaving a job involuntarily, departing for something new, or just want to prepare for the unknown, it is smart to understand all your options regarding your 401k.
Frugal gifting often gets a bad reputation. However, this shopping method does not make you cheap — it makes you practical. Frugal gifts often avoid waste and overspending and can be just as meaningful (if not more so) as any other present.
With the National Retail Federation predicting each consumer this holiday season to spend upwards of $1,000 on holiday gifts amidst an economic recession —this year might be the perfect time to reconsider your spending budget. We've formulated the ultimate list of frugal gift-giving ideas to get you started.