Credit cards … a good or bad idea?

For a while, I thought that credit cards were a complete no-no. I remember a friend of mine saying that she was considering getting one. I was the first person to say, ‘Don’t do it!’

I despised credit cards, but that was because of my experience with them. Was it the credit card’s fault? Nope! It was all me and my doing.

This is what happened:

Learning the hard way

I first got a credit card in varsity; I think I was in second year. A certain bank had an activation and offered most of us credit cards. I think I saw it as free money … ha, ha! I boxed that money in that week. On what? I’m ashamed to say, but alcohol. The credit given to me was not a lot, but I sure could have used the money better.  

The second time I took out a credit card was to pay a deposit on a new place I was moving into. Not a bad move, right? I did exactly that with the money, and then paid it back when I got paid at the end of the month. Responsible, right? Yeah. Until I started using the credit card on non-essentials, like going out, takeaways, alcohol and clothing.

Let me tell you, I was never broke! Until I eventually maxed out the credit card and found myself with unnecessary debt. Sure, I would pay the credit card at the end of the month, but then spend the money again.

How to use a credit card responsibly

I learnt a very big lesson here – there must be no frivolous spending when credit is concerned. This is where most people get it wrong. A credit card is meant to make your life easier in 2 ways: help in an emergency, and give you cashless convenience for your everyday shopping. There are no fees when you pay for most retail purchases with your credit card, and you won’t pay interest on them if you pay back the full amount before your next due date. That’s when credit is a good thing that adds value to your life.

When you manage your credit card account well … it will even help to improve your credit score

But remember, for certain purchases like fuel, cash withdrawals, transfers to other accounts and services like Lotto tickets, you will begin paying interest on the full amount immediately. So avoid making those transactions on your credit card.

It’s also important to get credit that you can afford. The lower the interest rate and the card fees, the less your credit card will cost you. The Nedbank Gold Credit Card for people who earn more than R5,000 a month is one of these options. It has low interest rates and a monthly service fee from only R50.

So, remember: a credit card isn’t always a bad idea. It’s a financial tool that can save you in a cash crisis, and it’s also a convenient, safe way to make in-store purchases without carrying cash, and to shop online without having to set up different payment wallets. When you manage your credit card account well by making your payments on time and keeping your balance to no more than 30% of your credit limit, it will even help to improve your credit score.