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Credit cards have gone through a lot of bad publicity in recent years. But despite that, you should know that there are smart credit card uses that will defend their existence in the financial industry. They really have uses that are beneficial to our finances - from the convenience of a cashless transaction to the extra layer of protection for your money.
But of course, we need to learn how to use a credit card responsibly to be able to enjoy all of these benefits. If you think about it, we are to blame for our credit card problem. The card itself is not flawed. Everything boils down to how we choose to use it and how we react to the payment obligations that are expected of us after every use.
Although we are encouraged to lower our debts, statistics show that our debts are still continuing to rise. According to the latest data from the FederalReserve.gov, the total debt amount by the end of 2013 is now at $3.1 trillion. Credit card debt (included in the revolving debt category) has also risen significantly in the last quarter of 2013. In quarter 1, the revolving debt is at $849 billion. In quarter 2, it grew to $851 billion and then increased to $852 billion in quarter 3. It jumped to $861 billion by the end of the the year. Most of the growth happened in December - just as expected because of the holiday spending.
These trends show us that paying off the debt completely still involves a very long journey ahead. It is advisable that you pay off any balance that you have before you decide on any more credit card transactions in the future.
5 uses for your credit card that makes sense
Despite these, did you know that there are certain credit card uses that actually make a lot of sense? If you consider it carefully, it even makes better sense than using cash - at least, if you learn how to pay the balance properly. Here are the 5 ways you can use your credit card the smartly.
Making online purchases.
Online shopping has grown to be a very convenient way to make purchases. It beats going to the store and fighting your way through the crowd just to get what you want. In some cases, the online prices are even lower than their counterpart in the store. Statistica.com reveals an increasing trend in online shopping. In 2010, the number of online shoppers were 172.3 million who contributed $228 billion in the overall consumer spending. In 2011, it grew to 178.3 million e-shoppers who spent $256 billion. In 2012, it grew even further with 183.8 million online shoppers who spent $289 billion throughout the year. Although the figures are not yet final, it is estimated that the 2013 online shoppers will total to 189.4 million. This growth will push eCommerce shops to improve their products and services - and that makes it an ideal place to buy things. If you want to join this trend, your credit card will help protect you and give you benefits too. Things like unauthorized charges can be reversed and thus protecting your money. You can even expect a stronger return and warranty policies - thanks to your credit card account.
Paying for big products or electronic appliances.
One of the options for credit card uses is for big and expensive purchases that takes too long to save up for. If the appliance or furniture really needs to be replaced and you cannot wait to save up for it, it is okay to use your credit card. But there are some things that you need to do. First is to check the warranty clause in your card. Most credit card companies offer extended warranties. Also, you may want to check if you can avail of a zero% installment plan to pay off that debt.
Renting a vehicle.
It will be very difficult for you to rent a car without a credit card. After all, this is the guarantee of the company that you will not run off with their car. While there are very few rental companies that will allow you to do so without a card, they will place a $500 hold on your bank account for 14 days. It will also involve a credit check. All of these will be unnecessary if you have a credit card. That convenience does not have any other alternative.
Financing your travel expenses.
Card holders can also benefit from this purchasing tool during vacations or other travelling events. In case your card gets stolen while you are away, you can simply call the creditor to ask them to freeze your account. That will keep the thief from completely stealing from you. Some cards also offer you travel insurance. In case you lose your card, there are companies who will send you cash and quickly replace your card within 24 hours. There are also certain travelling perks that you can enjoy.
Booking hotel accommodations.
Renting hotel rooms wrap up our list of great credit card uses. Just like in rental cars, booking a hotel room with cash will allow hotels to put a hold on your bank account. For some establishments, they will hold the amount that you are expected to pay for throughout your stay. That includes the room rate, phone calls, taxes and other incidental costs. It can cost up to $1,000 or more. And even if you pay it in cash at the end of your stay, the hold will not be lifted immediately. So if your expected bill is $1,000, you need more than $2,000 in your bank account.
All of these expenses are better off using a credit card but remember that you still have to practice being a smart credit card user. Make sure that you have a plan in place to pay off your card balances so it will not accumulate and become a big financial problem for you in the future.
Using your credit card for emergencies is not too smart
Some financial experts will advise you to keep your credit card for emergencies. While this may seem like a sound advice, you have to approach it with caution too. It is still important for you to save up for a cash emergency fund to be your main source of financial support.
Despite that, there are two emergency credit card uses that are acceptable.
When your emergency cash fund is inaccessible. There are instances wherein there is no ATM around or other sources for you to withdraw your cash fund. This is the only time for you to use your credit card. When you finally have access to money, you may want to pay off your card balance immediately.
When your cash emergency fund is not enough to finance what you need. Sometimes, your emergency situation demands a huge amount of money. If your cash fund runs out, your credit card can be a welcome relief. This will help ease your worries as you try to get out of your financial difficulty.
These are the only time that you should consider using your credit card for emergencies. It should not be an excuse for you to not save up for your emergency fund.
Credit card uses, regardless if it is advisable or not, should always be approached with a plan. With the exception of the emergency situation, you have to keep your card expenses in your budget. That way, you can pay it off as soon as possible to minimize, if not eliminate, the finance charges that can grow your money.