Build Credit: Using Credit Cards As Tools of Financial Freedom

Credit cards have gotten a bad reputation as more and more people view these cards as vessels for temporary financial freedom. The thought of being able to buy whatever you want even if you don’t have the cash readily available is exhilarating. As times have gotten harder and more and more people are relying on credit to help them through, retail therapy has become a quick emotional fix. Unfortunately, if you don’t know how your spending habits hurt or help your credit, you could be paying for more than a quick dose of endorphins.
While credit cards certainly provide access to splurge on these instincts, that doesn’t mean they are all bad. In fact, it’s actually important to maintain three credit cards in order to improve your credit score. This may sound confusing, but your credit card history is a crucial factor in determining your overall credit score. As with many things, there are some points to watch out for. When using credit cards, you’ll want to keep these tips in consideration:

  • Always remember the 30/30 rule. 30 percent of your credit score is based on your outstanding debt, and if your credit balance is more than 30 percent of your credit limit, your score is going to drop. Never exceed 30% of your limit.
  • Make sure your credit card companies are reporting your actual credit limit. If they are reporting a lower credit limit, then your calculation for 30% of your credit debt is going to be reported incorrectly, therefore damaging your score.
  • Be aware of the credit balance myth. Some people believe that they must keep an ongoing balance on their credit card in order to improve their credit score. This mistaken belief causes some consumers to make unnecessary interest payments. The truth of the matter is that credit bureaus have no way of knowing whether you pay your balance in full or make monthly payments. If you have the financial resources to do so, pay your balance each month. That said, keep your cards active. If you never use your credit card, it will become inactive and stop helping your credit score.

So if you need the credit cards, but credit card debt is also damaging, the question then remains: What exactly should you be spending your money on? How can you use your credit cards to build good credit?
To keep things in perspective, consider the following statement: wealth is creating a state of abundance. If you are using credit cards to pay for something, not only are you paying for the item, but you’re paying extra for the right to “pay later.” So instead of moving forward financially, you’re actually creating more debt. With this in mind, it’s important to examine exactly what you are using your credit cards for. Buying a shirt or even a tank of gas for your car at an inflated rate doesn’t really make any sense when you factor in interest. However, purchasing a book on finances or taking a course that will teach you a skill you can monetize will be well worth the extra interest you incurred.
Therefore, credit cards should be used to increase your quality of life or your wealth, not used as a means to create more debt. The next time you’re about to charge something, consider whether that purchase is going to create a state of abundance or create a state of debt. This type of control will not only help you improve your credit rating, but it will also help you make better long-term financial decisions.