They say cash is king, but in a time when social distancing is on everyone’s minds, its reign is on the chopping block — and for good reason. The average bill can pick up a few germs in its time, and new studies show it may be a vector for more serious health concerns.
With the crown up for grabs, the credit card may be its heir apparent. Thanks to its contactless payments, credit offers an easy way around touching dirty money, but it does pose another risk.
The New York Times reports people are more likely to spend when using credit vs cash. There’s no physical exchange of bills when you tap or swipe, so you can end up charging more than you can afford.
If you’re worried about your budget when you give up cash, check out these tips. They’ll help you tap into your credit card’s advantages without putting your finances in a bind.
1. Understand How They Work
A crash course in the various credit accounts can do wonders for your financial health. It helps you understand what’s on the line every time you swipe, tap, or sign your name.
Ordinarily, credit is reserved for special emergencies. Take, for example, installment loans. The loan experts at MoneyKey only recommend using installment loans to cover surprise auto or medical bills when your savings are low. The installment loans you can find at www.MoneyKey.com aren’t meant for day-to-day shopping, and their terms and conditions reflect that.
But a credit card isn’t like an installment loan. When used responsibly, it may tag along to the average shopping trip. Its billing process is different from most personal loans, which is why it may be suited to these expenses — provided you follow the next rule closely.
2. Treat it Like Cash
Cash enjoyed a long reign because it’s simple. Once you run out of it, you can’t spend any more. It’s an easy way to stay on budget.
A credit card is a little more complicated. Remember the money you charge to this account is an IOU. Eventually, you’re expected to pay it back plus interest, even if it’s more than you have.
Use a budget to avoid overspending. It can show you how much cash you need to cover the essentials throughout the month, and how much cash you have leftover for non-essentials. These are your hard limits; don’t spend more than this.
3. Pay in Full and On Time
Paying your full balance on time is one of the best ways to manage this account. It frees up your limit for additional purchases, and it may reduce the interest you accrue.
If you’ve been spending according to your budget, you’ll always have the cash you need to make this full payment. You just need to get into the habit of paying it on time. Set up reminders to help you remember and set up automatic payments covering the minimum payment in case you forget. This will keep your account in good standing until you pay again.
These tips don’t guarantee a credit card is the perfect replacement for cash, but they do put you in a better position to use it responsibly. Take advantage of any rewards points that might come with this account, and always avoid opening an account that has an annual fee if you can help it.