I recently did something I never thought I’d do; I signed up for a credit card online to get airline mileage points.
Typically, I wouldn’t do this, but my husband and I planned to take a trip to Alaska this summer, and a local airline company offered a credit card with a free companion fare plus an exorbitant amount of miles to sign up.
My eyes saw two airline tickets already paid for — minus taxes and fees, of course.
So, I applied for the card and got it.
The catch? I had to spend $2000.00 on the card within three months to get all these goodies.
There went part of my rule #3: never charge anything on a credit card.
Using credit cards is one of the primary reasons people get into debt. We as a society have a terrible habit of spending money we don’t have. According to www.debt.org:
More than 189 million Americans have credit cards.
The average credit card holder has at least four cards.
On average, each household with a credit card carries $8,398 in credit card debt.
Total U.S. consumer debt is at $13.86 trillion. That includes mortgages, auto loans, credit cards, and student loans.
Knowing all that I know, why would I get a credit card with a stipulation to spend $2000.00?
I had a little trick up my sleeve to make sure I didn’t carry over a balance and rack up interest payments:
I loaded my card with cash beforehand.
Here’s what I did:
- Once I got my card, I took $2000.00 out of my savings and placed it into the credit card account.
- I added my credit card to my budget with the $2000.00 in assets.
- I used my card to pay for groceries, dining out, and other purchases.
- I kept track of the credit card expenses on my budgeting app.
- I didn’t spend over the amount of money I loaded on to the card.
- I took the money that would normally go towards purchases from my debit account and replenished my savings account.
It still wasn’t easy. There’s a different mindset that comes with a credit card. In my mind, “I’ll just charge it!” is in my thoughts, and it takes great willpower to pull myself back in and make sure I don’t overspend — this is especially true when I know I needed to spend $2000.00 in a limited amount of time.
Honestly, even though I hit my $2000.00 to get my extra miles and my companion ticket and I didn’t wrack up fees and interest, I still spent over my budget.
I overspent even when I had kept diligent about my budget and spending. That’s because I felt the pressure of meeting my spending goal and it’s so easy to get something extra when you’re using a credit card. I got a new dining room rug, a whole lotta new clothes, and a lot of dining out. I made excuses to meet my $2000.00 of spending.
I still don’t recommend using a credit card to pay bills. Most of us will carry over a balance into the next month and pay additional fees and interest — wasted money that can go towards something more valuable. I say avoid it at all costs.
However, if you insist on using your credit card, try this trick, load your card first with money, spend only what you have on the card already, and stick to a budget for your spending and savings. This will give you the best chance of keeping yourself out of credit card debt.
Michelle Jaqua is a blogger on Medium.com. She writes about money/relationships/personal improvement. Sign up for the Cha-Ching newsletter here and join us in learning about money and how to have more of it.