A credit card is a convenient financial product that can be used for everyday purchases such as gas, groceries, and other goods and services. It can also be a great resource for purchasing big-ticket items such as TVs, travel packages, and jewelry because the funds for these items are not always immediately at our disposal. Beyond convenience, other advantages of credit cards include providing cardholders with the opportunity to build credit, earn rewards and cash back, and protect against credit card fraud.
What Are the Benefits of Using a Credit Card?
When used responsibly, credit cards can be valuable tools for earning rewards, traveling, handling emergencies or unplanned expenses, and building credit.
A rewards credit card does exactly what its name implies: rewards the cardholder for making purchases. Rewards can vary by issuer and card type. Some rewards come in the form of cash back, discounts on gas station purchases, and even travel miles. For those who use their cards regularly, earning rewards is one of the primary advantages of credit cards, as cardholders can redeem them for things they were going to purchase already as well as the occasional treat.
Credit cards can also be beneficial when traveling. This is because some major car rental companies and hotels require a hold on a credit or debit card to reserve a vehicle or book a room. This procedure can take several days or longer. During this time, the amount of the hold on either a credit or debit card is not available to use. Because you may not have the necessary funds in your bank account, credit cards increase your purchasing power, providing you with the required funds at the time they are needed.
Some credit cards offer fraud alerts to serve as a safety net if someone experiences a theft of their card or information when traveling. In the case of potentially fraudulent activity, an alert may be sent via a phone call, email, or text message, and the transactions can be stopped. Because a credit card isn’t linked to a checking or savings account, there is less risk of the thief gaining access to the money in these accounts. Additionally, with Discover’s $0 Fraud Liability Guarantee, you’re not responsible for unauthorized purchases on your Discover credit card.
How Do I Use Credit Cards Responsibly?
Like most financial products, the advantages of credit cards are best enjoyed when cards are used responsibly. It is essential for anyone who decides to open a line of credit to consider how they plan to make the payments and how to use their newfound purchasing power responsibly.
It can be beneficial to use a credit card for purchases that allow for the balance to be paid off within a reasonable time frame. If there is no plan to pay off the balance, however, it will likely continue to accumulate interest, reduce spending power and potentially limit the benefits of having a credit card. A good rule of thumb for using credit cards responsibly is not to use them for impulse purchases or unaffordable items if you cannot pay it off within a reasonable amount of time.
Credit cards offer balance transfer options, and responsibly maintaining these benefits is important. A balance transfer is when someone moves the balance on one or multiple credit cards to another credit card. The transferred balance is then subject to the interest rate and terms of the new card. Credit card issuers may offer limited-time, zero percent introductory interest balance transfers to new applicants and cardholders or existing cardholders with a low balance. In some instances, there may be fees associated with a balance transfer and after the introductory offer, interest rates may apply. When utilizing a balance transfer offer, make sure to read the terms and conditions and plan on responsibly paying off the balance prior to the end of the introductory offer to avoid paying interest on the remaining amount.