By far the greatest invention the banks have ever come up with came out in the 20th century. Also the new field of Credit Management was born with the invention of the credit card. It is the most available out of any financial product out there. In fact more than 80% of the US households have at least one credit card. If you want to consider yourself as the "Average" American then you have about 8 credit cards burning a hole in your wallet right now. To make sure that you do not get yourself in any trouble (again) try and follow these 10 Simple Steps for Credit Management.
1. Ignore the bank's / lender's rule on what is an "acceptable" level of debt. Your debt-to-income ratio, as they like to call it, is how much debt you can carry to the amount of money you bring make. Depending on how well you have managed your credit in the past it can fluctuate quite a bit. The average is about 25%. The ideal number is of course ZERO but for starters work on getting it down to 10-15%.
2. Remember what a credit card is … A Credit Card. Just because they have washed their magic wand and sent you your "Pre-Approved" Card does not mean go out and use it. The bank does not know your situation or your lifestyle all they look at is the number that you should be able to pay off using most of your "extra" money. They will keep you paying them for the rest of your life if you let them.
Which brings me to the next point …
3. Do not pay just the minimum balances, unless of course you like paying 400% or more in interest. A typical Credit Card debit of $ 4,500 would take you about 44 YEARS to pay off! And you would end up paying about $ 17,000 total by the time you are done. When you stop and think about it, does that sound like a good deal to you?
4. Play the Game- Remember that you are the customer and "the customer" is always right. When it comes to annual fees and higher interest rates ask for a lower rate. And if you climbed up and got a late fee ask to get it waived (make sure you promise never to do it again … well at least for six month) Remember that it is a lot more cost effective for them to keep a customer happy than it is for them to go get another one. Your $ 29- $ 35 late fee does not come close to the money they will have to spend to get a new one of you.
5. While you are playing the game do not get blindsided by the fees. The banks have come up with some very creative ways to make money at your expense. They have the ones that everyone knows like over the limit fee, late fee, and extra card fee. However, they also have the less obvious fees like account transfer fee, and a fee for talking to a live person instead of a recording. Make sure you look at your statement and check out all the charges. Some of them may surprise you.
6. Know how you stack up- BILLIONS AND BILLIONS of dollars are charged annually to consumer on mark ups in interest rates. That's a lot of money when you look at your share. Your credit information is something you should look at and make sure it is accurate. About 25% of all credit reports have erroneous information contained in them. Make sure your information is accurate and keep an eye on it regularly.
7. Know you limits- When you know you will have a hard time paying even the minimum balance STOP charging. It may sound simple but for millions of Americans it is very hard to do. Of course the easy way Hind sight 20/20 do not get in the situation.
8. If you are one of those people that are disciplined enough to pay off your balance at the end of the month then make sure you are getting some bonus for being such a great user. Get the free stuff that you can use. Some extra Flying miles, free gifts, Cash back reward (my favorite). If you are going to use it might as well get something for your efforts.
9. Only have what you need- You should have 2 cards, one for what you use regularly and pay off every month and the other for emergencies or business. When you start trying to take advantage of all the deals out there the only one who gets taken advantage of are you. Overkill on your credit cards are not necessary, but being really good at managing a couple of cards is.
10. The statistics are in and they are mind boggling. Bankruptcies are at record numbers and the consumer debt for the US is over 1.7 Trillion dollars! Teach your kids now to not make the mistakes that you did. Financial Literacy is a must for the next generation as we are heading into a cashless society. It's harder to manage what you can not see. Make sure they understand that the credit card is what pays for food on the table and gas in the car as well as the play station games they love.