Don't Be Afraid of Credit Cards: Get Perks for Adulting
Credit cards are both the single best and single worst thing to happen to everyday Americans. On one hand, it allows individuals to pay for large purchases or emergencies without needing to have the cash immediately available. On the other, it led people to develop a swipe now and worry later mentality, putting millions in soul-crushing debt, making credit card companies wealthy out of the wazoo.
As of 2016, the average U.S household has a whopping $16,061 in credit card debt. Ouch!
Because of the fear of debt, people are cutting up their credit cards and using their debit card for every single purchase. Let me first state; I’m here for living within your means. Who do you need to impress out here? If they’re not paying your bills and helping out with rent, the answer is nobody. However, I will add a caveat that if you’re not exploring the wonderful world of credit (responsibly), you’re not living right.
If you’re maxing out credit cards and swimming in debt, ignore this post. It isn’t for you yet.
However if you don’t have debt (or it’s at least manageable) and can resist swiping and praying, come on a journey with me, it’s time to embrace the credit card.
Before you get started, you need to get the right card. Do you spend a lot of money on travel or are most of your expenses gas and groceries? The answer to these questions will determine which type of card you should get.
For credit card research, my go-to sites are NerdWallet and The Points Guy. They break down the pros and cons of cards and help make your decision easy. They also share what type of credit you need to qualify for a card. The better the credit, the better the perks.
When making your decision, don’t forget to look at fees. The cards with the most perks tend to have an annual fee. However, if you use the card strategically, the fee can more than pay for itself. There are also cards that don’t carry fees. Just pick what works for your lifestyle.
Okay, now that’s out of the way, here’s why I’m team give-your-debit card-a-rest.
Points can allow you to live the life you were meant to live.
Unless you have a sugar momma or daddy, you have bills to pay -- bills that come every month. If you have to pay anyway, you might as well get cash back or a free flight out of it. Adulting doesn’t have to be painful 24/7, right? Need to buy groceries, put it on the card. Last summer, despite being on a new freelancer salary, I went to Cancun, Atlanta and New Orleans (mostly for weddings) thanks to my Chase Sapphire card. I was able to transfer my credit card points to Southwest points and not have to worry about spending cash on expensive flights. How much did I save? Over $1,000 on flights and hotels.
Keep in mind this only works if you pay off your balance each month, on time! The fees and the interest rate will cancel out any rewards you’ve earned. Don’t go overboard and don’t write checks your ass can’t cash.
Your 9-5 could end up paying for your travel.
If you've been playing this adulting game for a while now, you know that the only thing better than making your money work for you is making someone else’s money work for you. I’m looking at you consultants. If your job is going to pay you back, you’re essentially earning points on someone else’s money. If you book travel with your debit card, you will be feeling very cash poor until you're reimbursed, and not earn any points.
Bonus tip - Don’t worry if you don’t have a swanky consulting job; you can still reap benefits from other people’s coins. Think group trips, dinners, or anything where people will pay you cash if you put the bill on your card. Just make sure you know your friends will pay you back before your credit card bill due.
The perks, man!
I feel in my past life; I was an heiress. I was MEANT to live the good life. Credit cards can give us a window into how the other half lives. Want tickets to see Beyonce? What about being a patron at a Top Chef pop-up restaurant? Or maybe you want to stay in a cushy airline lounge while you wait for your flight. Perhaps getting reimbursed for paying for TSA precheck would tickle your fancy. Good news, there’s a card for that!
Honestly, I live for perks. I treat my credit card like a concierge service.
When the Beyhive tickets on presale for Beyonce’s Formation tour, I ceased work for a good hour so I could cop tickets. Although a coworker and I hit the ‘buy’ button at the same exact time, she got tickets and I was left ticketless. Thankfully, American Express had another sale an hour later. I was able to join the Beyhive with much less competition for a seat.
Need another example? My sister routinely schmoozes up in the airline lounge areas and gets free wine and lunch. I’m all about wine, and not paying for lunch. Honestly, all of those things work for me.
Insurance -- Because things go wrong when adulting.
Many cards come with insurance for purchases such as airline tickets, lost luggage, home appliances or technology. For example, if your flight is canceled, your credit card company would give you a certain amount of money towards a hotel. Your debit card will have you sleep at the gate next to some guy named Bubba. Need I say more?
Each card is different so read the fine print. When in doubt, call. Why should you always have to pay for adulting with your own money?
Credit cards can be like having a bodyguard against financial shadiness.
Like many of you, I don’t have time to deal with foolishness. Life’s too short to argue with that boutique about why they need to refund you for that cute sweater they never delivered to you. Unfortunately, if you used cash or your debit card, you’re pretty much at the mercy of the vendor.
When it comes to getting back my money, Chase and I go back like gin and juice.
Remember that $250 round trip to deal Dubai, South Africa, and Thailand via Ethiopian Airlines earlier in 2017? To get the price you had to do a fare dump. If the airline finds you out, you risk getting your trip canceled. However, with such a low cost, I had to take a chance right?
Well several weeks later, Ethiopian Airlines got hip to the game and burst my bubble by canceling my Thailand trip, along with hundreds of other frugal travelers. Talk about crushed! While friends on my Facebook timeline were crying about the airline not issuing refunds in a timely manner and going radio silent, Chase returned my group's money immediately. Yeah, my credit card doesn't play that. Bish better have my money.
Once again, you need to know yourself. If you know you will keep swiping until it hurts, stay with your debit card. You also need to understand that not all credit cards are created equally. The better your credit, the better the perks you can expect to receive. But if you want to make your money work for you, join me on my points journey.