Author: Sean P. Egen
January 08, 2018
Much of what you read these days about credit cards focuses on the negative: fees, interest rates, consumer debt, etc. But those little 3.37” x 2.125” pieces of plastic are neither inherently bad nor good. They’re simply a tool that can be used, at your discretion, to purchase items with an instant, no-collateral-required loan—which, when you think about it, is really kind of awesome.
So, in the spirit of accentuating the positives of credit cards—which sometimes get a bad rap—here are 10 pretty impressive things about them for you to consider:
1. Credit Cards Are Good for Emergencies
If you’re in a pinch and you absolutely, positively need something right away—say, your car is broken down on the side of the freeway and you need a tow—it’s tough to beat the instant access to funds a credit card provides. Especially given very few of us are walking around with hundreds of dollars in our pockets.
Yes, if you don’t have the funds in your bank account to pay your emergency purchase in full, it will end up costing you more than cash or a debit card. But if it’s a matter of life or death to take care of a problem there on the spot, how much do a few extra dollars really matter in the scheme of things?
2. You Can Earn Rewards for Using Credit Cards
Depending on the card you have, you could earn cash back rewards or points, which you can use/redeem for travel, dining out, paying your outstanding balance, or a whole host of other options.
So just by purchasing everyday items like groceries or paying bills with your credit card—things you regularly pay for anyway—you get rewarded. All a check or cash ever gets you is what you’re buying with it.
3. Credit Cards Can Save You Money in the Future
Using credit cards helps you establish and build a credit history, which is used to calculate your credit score. Your credit score is then used by potential lenders to help them determine whether or not to extend you more credit. Not only will your credit score and credit history be influential in determining if you’re extended credit, they will also affect your credit limits and interest rates.
If you consistently pay the amount due on your credit cards on time and build an impressive credit history, you could end up shelling out thousands of dollars less over your lifetime in interest on mortgages, car loans, and other forms of credit.
4. They Provide Instant Gratification
Patience may be a virtue, but when it comes to getting things we want, our society isn’t big on waiting. If you have a credit card—and enough remaining credit below your limit to purchase what you want—you don’t have to wait until you have sufficient cash on hand to buy it.
Again, you may ultimately end up paying more for that item if you accrue interest and other charges, but your credit card provides a major convenience by allowing you to make a purchase right then and there. It may even save you money if, say, the item you buy is on sale for a limited time only. Or it could provide you with an opportunity you might otherwise have to forgo, like if you use your card to buy an airline or concert ticket that may be sold out if you wait to pay using other methods.
5. They Offer Other “Freebies”
Depending on the card you carry, you can enjoy a wide range of other free services and benefits. These perks include free insurance for car rentals, access to airport VIP lounges, free Wi-Fi on airplanes, free travel insurance, roadside assistance, concierge services, extended warranties on purchased products, and more.
There’s even more good news—as competition for card members grows more intense, the list of free benefits credit card companies are offering is only getting longer and more creative.
6. Credit Cards Are Easier to Carry Than Cash
That flat, lightweight little card in your wallet or purse represents hundreds or thousands of dollars’ worth of purchasing power, depending on your credit limit. Carrying that much cash around is inconvenient, bulky/heavy, and just plain unsafe (see #7).
Sure, carrying a relatively compact (but still cumbersome when compared to a credit card) checkbook is still an option, but the number of merchants who accept checks—especially out-of-state ones, if you’re travelling—grows smaller every day.
7. They’re Safer to Carry Than Cash
If your cash is lost or stolen, it—and all of its purchasing power—is gone for good. If your credit card is lost, you can get a replacement with a simple phone call. And if it’s stolen or used to make fraudulent charges, by federal law, the most you can be held liable for is $50. However, many credit card companies, Credit One Bank included, offer zero fraud liability.
Debit cards offer similar protections, but they leave you more vulnerable because you have a shorter amount of time to report fraud, your liability can be greater, and it can take longer to recover your money because the funds have already been withdrawn from your account with debit card fraud.
8. Credit Cards Let You Show Your Personality
Many credit card companies offer personalized design options to let you express yourself. Some even give you the option to upload your own photo for the card’s design. So, if you’re a dog lover, you can let the world know every time you whip out your puppy-themed card to make a purchase. Or announce to the world you’re into NASCAR with the official credit card of NASCAR®.
All cash says about you is you live in a country where we’re fans of dead presidents—and a few other historic notables like Ben Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, and Susan B. Anthony.
9. They Help You Keep Track of Expenditures
With cash, unless you’re a stickler for details and keep a detailed log of your expenditures, you’re likely to just spend it and forget where it all went, which can make staying on budget tough. With a credit card, every purchase shows up on your statement. And if you misplace that statement or want to go back and look at a past one, most credit card companies make past statements available online. Or you can usually contact them and order a copy of the statement you’re looking for.
10. Credit Cards Are Good for Emergencies Part II (Non-Financial Types)
Credit One Bank does not recommend you do any of the following with a credit card—especially not one from us! That said, having a credit card in your wallet or purse provides you with a useful financial and physical tool. And sometimes you just got to do what you got to do.
Ever needed to open a locked door with a wedge bolt for strictly legal purposes—say, you accidentally locked the bathroom door and closed it behind you after exiting? A credit card is just stiff and flexible enough to pop that bolt in and open the door. Try doing this with a flimsy dollar bill.
Or have you ever walked out to your car on a cold winter’s day to find your windshield covered with a half-inch of frost and no scraper on hand? While it will definitely leave your fingers colder than a handled scraper, your credit card will still do an admirable job.
Credit cards also make excellent straight edges for drawing lines and are convenient for measuring things if you don’t have a ruler (remember, they’re 3.37” long). And if you’re about to serenade your sweetheart but you’ve lost your last guitar pick and don’t want—or know how—to play pick-less, don’t fret (pardon the obvious guitar pun)—you can use your card’s corner and no one will hear a difference.
So let’s hear it for credit cards! No, they’re not perfect, but they’re still pretty darn awesome. Anyone who says differently may need awesome lessons or a credit card of their own. We’re not sure where to get the former, but here’s a good place to start for the latter.
About the author:Sean P. Egen
After realizing he couldn’t pay back his outrageous film school student loans with rejection notices from Hollywood studios, Sean focused his screenwriting skills on scripting corporate videos. Videos led to marketing communications, which led to articles and, before he knew it, Sean was making a living as a writer. He continues to do so today by leveraging his expertise in credit, financial planning, wealth-building, and living your best life for Credit One Bank.
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