Unearth Your Fortune

By Maddy Scheckel

March 6, 2023

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Are you suffering from credit card FOMO (fear of missing out)?

I can see why. 

84% of American adults have a credit card, and the average American has 3

With so many people swiping and tapping around you, I can imagine there’s a question forming on your lips: 

Should I get a credit card?

The answer is probably “yes.” 

I say “probably” because it’s a big decision. And it depends on the specifics of your financial situation.

Let me walk you through that decision so you can make the right choice.

Why Get a Credit Card?

Credit cards can have a positive impact on both your everyday life and your financial health. 

First of all, they’re just plain convenient. You can buy your groceries with a tap and pay your bills with a click – saving countless seconds along the way.

On the financial side, credit cards often come with valuable rewards. 

I’m not talking a nickel here or there. 

Some credit cards offer as much as 5% cash back on certain purchases. This means you can earn $50 for every $1,000 you spend.

And then there’s the chance to build credit history. 

The more you borrow and pay back, the more future lenders will trust you. Credit cards provide an easy way to show that you’re trustworthy. That will increase your credit score, making it easier to get loans in the future. 

So credit cards certainly have their upsides, but your initial question remains: “Should I get a credit card?” 

To answer, we’ll have to dig a little deeper.

When to Get a Credit Card

Deciding when to get a credit card is just as important as which credit card you go with. Source: Unsplash

Your question: “Should I get a credit card?” 

My answer: It depends on your situation. 

Here are some signs that getting a credit card could be a good idea:

  • You just turned 18. Congratulations! You’re officially an adult! That means it’s time to begin the very “adult” task of building credit, which you can start doing by getting a credit card.
  • You have no credit history. Credit bureaus use your borrowing track record to assign you a credit score. No track record = not a great score. A credit card can give you that much-desired credit history. 
  • You’re a regular traveler. Some of the best credit card rewards are based on travel. Do free flights and discounted hotel rooms sound appealing? Then look for a card with those types of perks.
  • You need help paying for a major purchase. Some credit cards offer 0% APR (meaning they won’t charge interest) for an introductory period (often 12-18 months). You could use the card for your big purchase, then pay off the balance before interest becomes a factor. 
  • You have good or excellent credit. The higher your credit score, the better your chances of landing a card with generous rewards.

The Risk of Falling Into Debt

Credit cards represent quite a temptation. 

You could start out using the card for emergencies and necessary purchases – until some devious part of your brain thinks, “Wait, I could use this magic plastic for all sorts of exciting things!” 

Next thing you know, you’ll be overspending. And making it impossible to pay off your balance each month. 

That’s when the interest rates take effect, ballooning your balance even further. 

And so it begins…

You probably know how that story ends, and it’s not pretty. That’s why it’s so important to use your credit cards responsibly. 

Only spend within your budget and pay off your balances as soon as you can. 

So when you ask, “should I get a credit card?” The answer depends largely on your self-discipline. 

Interest Payments and Fees

Having a credit card isn’t always free. 

In fact, it can get pretty expensive if you’re not careful. 

Most credit cards charge relatively high-interest rates. This isn’t a problem if you pay off your balance each month, as interest is only applied to the money you don’t pay off. 

But if you get into the habit of running a balance, those interest charges will set you back in a hurry.

And then there are the fees to worry about. Each card has its own structure, but common fees include:

  • Annual fees
  • Late payment fees
  • Balance-transfer fees

Make sure you read the fine print before signing up for a card. Fees are never fun – but they’re even worse when they come as a surprise. 

Potential Damage to Your Credit Score

A credit card is good for your credit score if you pay off your balance each month. 

And yes, that caveat is an important one. 

Running a hefty balance or, even worse, failing to meet minimum payments can send your credit score into a tailspin.

Tips for Getting a Credit Card

Asking, “should I get a credit card?” is only the first step in the process. 

Once you’ve decided a credit card is right for you, it’s time to actually get one.

Here are some tips to keep in mind:

  • Shop around. Not all cards are created equal, so don’t just take the first offer you encounter. 
  • Check the rates and fees before applying. To decide if a card is right for you, you’ll have to get down and dirty with the details. 
  • Remember that the best cards are often out of reach. If this is your first credit card and you don’t have much credit history, you’ll probably have to settle for a card without incredible benefits. 
  • Don’t apply for lots of cards at once. Each application can cause a slight dip in your credit score, which can become a problem if you’ve got too many applications out there. 

Using a credit card is a great way to build credit.
Source: UnsplashWhen looking for a credit card, don’t forget to shop around before applying.
Source: Unsplash

Commonly Asked Questions About Getting a Credit Card

Are Credit Cards Safe?

When it comes to payments, credit cards are extremely safe. Some would argue they’re even safer than debit cards. That’s because they usually come with hefty fraud protection measures.

Is a Credit Card Really Worth It?

Credit cards are often worth it – but it depends on your situation. If you want to build credit or take advantage of rewards, then a credit card is likely a good idea. If you’re a chronic overspender, you might want to avoid something that could put you into debt.

Is There a Downside to Getting a Credit Card?

The major downside to getting a credit card is that you run the risk of falling into debt, especially if you tend to spend beyond your means. Another pitfall is that failing to make payments and running a large balance can damage your credit score. 

Should I Get a Credit Card and Not Use It?

Getting a credit card and not using it is a bad idea. I understand the logic: “If I use 0% of my credit line, it will increase my credit score!” But that’s not what happens. Instead, the company could close your card – which would actually hurt your credit score. 

Should I Get a Credit Card in College?

Getting a credit card in college is a great idea, but only if you’re sure you can consistently pay off your balance. Make smart choices, and you’ll graduate with credit history which will help you borrow in the future. Overspend, and you’ll put yourself in debt.

Should I Get a Credit Card at 18?

It’s smart to get a credit card at 18 to develop credit history as early as possible. I know teenagers aren’t exactly famous for their financial prudence, but here you’ll have to be on your A-game. Responsible card use could mark the difference between financial health and financial ruin. 

Should I Get a Credit Card at 20?

It makes sense to get a credit card at 20 – especially if you have a steady income. Credit cards are helpful for developing credit history, which will give you more financial flexibility in the future. Just make sure you don’t overspend and fall into debt. This would undermine the entire plan. 

Should I Get a Credit Card to Build Credit?

Getting a credit card to build credit is often a good idea, but it ultimately depends on your personal circumstances. Are you a responsible spender? Do you know you’ll be able to pay off your balance each month? Then go for it! Your credit score should improve as a result. 

Should I Get a Credit Card Through My Bank?

There’s nothing wrong with accepting a credit card from your bank. Just make sure you don’t choose this “easy” route without weighing all your options. Before applying, research cards from multiple institutions to see how they stack up. 

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