Though I steer clear of writing about credit cards at Get Rich Slowly, I use them all the time. I used to be an anti-credit card zealot. Because irresponsible use of credit cards had led me to tens of thousands of dollars in consumer debt, I thought they couldn't possibly be used for good.
My attitude toward credit cards has changed over the years.
- First, my wife showed me that it was perfectly possible to use a credit card without ever carrying any sort of debt.
- Then I started writing this blog, and you, the readers, continually argued that credit cards weren't necessarily a bad thing.
- Finally, in 2007 I picked up my first credit card in ten years; in the past five years, I've used it without incident and have accrued hundreds of dollars in discounts and travel deals along the way.
So, I've changed my stance on credit cards. I now see that they're a tool. But they're a dangerous tool. I often say that credit cards are like chainsaws. When used carefully, a chainsaw be a powerful tool. But if you're careless, a chainsaw can cause great damage. So too with credit cards.
Nearly two years ago, I polled GRS readers to see which credit cards you use. The question garnered more than 200 responses. At the time, I promised to go through and tabulate the results, to post them to the blog so that we could all see which credit cards were most popular with the smart folks who read this site. I never followed through. Now, 21 months later, I'm curious about this question again, but feel like the responses to that first post are outdated. As a result, I want to repeat the survey.
So, today I'm asking once again: Which credit card(s) do you use? Why do you use it? How, when, and where do you use it? Do you have personal rules for credit card use?
As for myself, my credit card portfolio remains largely unchanged:
- My credit-union debit card remains my go-to card for most transactions.
- My main personal credit card is the Capital One No-Hassle Cash Back card, which I use for large purchases or items that I'm certain aren't impulse buys. (I never use a credit card for impulse purchases.)
- I now have a second personal card. About a year ago, I picked up a new rewards card from Chase and British Airways. I don't use this card often — only for travel purchases really — but I've managed to accumulate 125,000 air miles through various bonuses.
- I also have two business credit cards, each with its own purposes.
Also unchanged is my personal philosophy toward the use of credit cards. I set some rules for myself in 2007 when I returned to the world of credit cards, and I still follow them. Namely, I:
- Pay off the balances every month.
- Never buy anything on credit unless I already had the cash in the bank to pay the bill.
- Make my decision about what to buy and then decide how to pay. (Instead of saying, “Oh, I have a credit card, so I can buy this.”
- Never use my credit cards for impulse purchases.
That's enough pontificating, I guess. What I really want to know is how you use credit cards. Which credit card(s) do you use? Why do you use it? How, when, and where do you use it? Do you have personal rules for credit card use? Have you ever been in credit card debt? How do you steer clear of that now?
This time, I'll follow through. I'll compile all of your responses to this question into a master list of readers' favorite credit cards and I'll share that sometime in May. Until then: If you do choose to use credit, use it wisely.