Should You Avoid Using Your Credit Cards?

Sure, it’s tempting to have plastic on you at all times, at the ready for when the urge to shop overcomes you. I know some folks who keep a line of credit cards in their wallets that they display on command like a line of kids’ photos. Because more is better, right? In most cases, it’s not.

If you’re like me, you get a billion offers in the mail. While I have credit card issuers who are canceling low-usage cards on me and cutting my credit limits, offers for other credit cards are still pouring in. Do I want a Discover card? How about a Visa Black Card? Chase Sapphire? That last one sounds pretty, but it’s not going to get me to fill out the application form.

And retailers love to get you to apply for their store credit cards — “Apply now and get 10% off your order!” the cashiers tell you. And these offers will be increasing now that it’s the holiday season. Great, I get a one-time 10% order discount and possibly a lifetime of debt. No thanks. Unless the card comes with a lot of coupons (I admit I did get a Kohl’s card for the continual discounts, since I shop there a lot), you can keep it.

I don’t carry all of my credit cards with me. They junk up my wallet and are tempting once in a while. If I go to, say, Target or Bed Bath & Beyond with just my debit card or cash, I know I’ll hardly spend a dime, since I’ll actually SEE the money coming out of my hand/account. And since we’ve paid off Mr. Saver’s two credit card accounts and I’ve introduced him to the wonders of the debit card, he’s also less likely to buy stuff.

Now that it’s the holidays, a lot of us are going to be shopping for gifts. I don’t like going to stores, most days. Impossible parking, too many people rushing around (or moving too slowly), and sales that make people crazy. The alternative is to shop online. I prefer buying stuff on the Internet, but that leads to another problem: You can’t pay with cash on the Internet. Credit cards are widely accepted, and while you can pay with a debit card most times, I’m not a fan of giving them direct access to my bank account.

For Christmas this year, I believe we’re doing grab bags with all of our family members, so we’ll be spending much less than last year. And we’ll be paying cash and keeping the plastic at home.

So unless you plan to pay off your credit card balance in full with the next statement, putting your gift purchases on a credit card probably isn’t a good idea.

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