Unlike payment plans, credit cards are not bad in and of themselves. While some credit cards are worse than others, the main offender is the way we use them. But it’s not a coincidence that the spending habits of many are negatively affected by credit cards. In this article we’ll take a look at some of the reasons why credit cards seem to breed bad economic decisions, indirectly manipulating you into more credit card debt.
1. Credit Cards Are Overly Convenient
Some recent studies show that the convenience might be the biggest factor. When people have to fork up cash, there is a tendency to do much less meaningless spending. But when using a credit card, because you don’t have to deal with the extra middle-man of actual money, or worry about whether or not you can afford it, everything becomes almost too painless. Often leading to little or no consideration before a purchase.
2. They Enable A Very Instant-Gratification-Focused Mindset
The advantage and, perhaps for most of us, disadvantage of the credit card is that you can use money you don’t have instantly. For someone who needs to restock his supply of ramen to avoid starving, great. But there is a huge downside as well. It enables us to prioritize instant gratification, and forsake long-term thinking and planning. The worst examples of this are people who abuse credit cards to live like kings for a couple of months, only to spend the rest of their adult lives repaying their debts. Thankfully these examples are fairly rare, and most of us manage to keep our inner big spender in check to one degree or another.
3. They Have Absurd Interest Policies
When we think about interest, we’re usually thinking of the annual interest that comes a long with a standard bank loan. But credit cards are different. In return for the perceived convenience, they often offer what amounts to interest rates of well over 20% annually on anything you fail to pay back. But because they count the interest month by month, it doesn’t sound like too much. “Oh, only 2% interest per month! That’s not too bad.” Of course this varies slightly from card to card. Some credit cards also have insane penalties if you miss a payment.
4. They Enable You To Spend More Than You Earn Or Have For No Reason
The thing that makes the painful process of applying for a loan so reasonable, is that you should have a damn good reason to apply for a loan. And also have done the necessary research and preparation. Credit cards—although on a smaller scale, granted—enable you to spend money you don’t have for no actual reason. Which can lead to things like people buying new clothes “just because they felt like it,” when in reality they had no money to buy them with.
5. They Make It Hard To Keep Track Of Spending
Well, you could perhaps argue the contrary. If you bother to go online and check once every day, the numbers are lined up for you nice and tidy. The problem is that it is so easy to not keep track. When you use cash, you have to continuously withdraw money to then spend it. That way how much money you’re spending always registers, and you have some oversight as to your total spending for the week or month. But when you’re always using a credit card, it doesn’t register in the same way. Even after going way beyond your means, the credit card doesn’t tell you that you’ve already spent last month’s paycheck and then some. It almost encourages it.
To avoid inducing personal bankruptcy and not getting their money back, many companies have started stricter policies about their credit limits. But sadly, the purpose of a credit card is not our convenience, but to make the issuer money. So it is unlikely that the credit card companies will take further steps that hold you more accountable for your everyday spending. Therefore, it is ultimately only by taking responsibility yourself that you can change.
If you do your research and chose the right credit card, you can actually save money and get bonuses like frequent flyer miles as rewards for your spending, provided you stay diligent and always pay up in time.
Further reading: The Mental Roadblocks Of Paying Down Debt, And How To Face Them | Travel Hacking Guide | Advanced Travel Hacking: The Credit Card Blitzkrieg | Gaming The System: How To Make Credit Cards Work For You