$16,748 is a nice chunk of change, right? Think about all the things you could do with it! Purchase a new car, go on vacation, put a down payment on a home, or deposit it all right in the bank. Heck, you could buy 16,748 items at a dollar store if you’re into that kind of thing (but we’d have some follow-up questions).
The possibilities are endless, really.
But enough of the windfall daydreaming. As much as it’d be great to have a cool $16,000-plus lying around, it’s just not the reality for most Americans.
The truth is, that dollar amount—$16,748—isn’t just some random number pulled out of the sky. That number is the average balance for those who have credit card debt in the country. Gasp! Shocking but true, according to 2016 study by NerdWallet.
So…how on earth does personal debt balloon out of control like this? We investigated, and found these bad credit card habits are some of the top culprits.
Thinking only making the minimum payment is fine and dandy.
How do we put this? No, no, no, no, no. First things first: it’s really important to pay the minimum payment every month. By doing this, you avoid being penalized by your creditor and breaching the contact.
But here’s what happens when you ONLY make the card’s minimum payment and don’t pay your bill in full. You accrue that thing called interest…and interest costs money on top of your balance. Simply, it can really hurt you.
Consider this example from NerdWallet:
“…Let’s say you don’t pay off any of your $1,000 balance for the first 10 days that it accrues interest. On day 11, you pay off $300, and on day 21, you pay off $500. Your average daily balance is (10 x $1,000 + 10 x $700 + 10 x $200)/30 = $633. The key takeaway? The longer you wait to pay off your balance, the more interest you’ll be charged.”
So now you REALLY see why debt is bad. It adds up…quickly.
Falling in love with those irresistible retail credit cards.
“Our store card will give you the following rewards and discounts with every purchase, plus 20% off your order today! It’ll just take a second…”
We know. It’s so hard to say no to the sales associate at the register who makes these credit cards sound so enticing. Especially as a frequent shopper there.
But that’s the thing.
A store’s credit card is all about getting you to spend more money there than you do already. And what happens when you spend so much that you’re forced to carry a balance? Well, if you thought a traditional credit card interest rate was high, interest on a retail credit card is typically 10 percentage points higher (double gasp!). It’s a bad financial habit. Pass.
Blowing off due dates.
It’s one thing to blow off a Saturday night date (you owe them an “it’s not you, it’s me” text though). It’s another thing to blow off a due date for your credit card. Depending on your card provider, you’ll probably get hit with a late fee of $25 to $35 even if you’re only a day late. And worse? A late payment will show up on your credit report for years, thus impacting your credit score.
But how much could paying a little late really hurt your score? Uh, just consider this nugget from one of the biggest credit bureaus, Equifax.
“One late payment could have a more significant impact on higher credit scores. According to FICO data, a 30-day delinquency could cause as much as 90- to 110-point drop on a FICO score of 780 for a consumer who has never missed a payment.”
And in the long run, a damaged credit score could cost you in a big way, especially when you’re thinking about buying a home.
Making (big) impulse purchases you know you shouldn’t.
These are things like vacations, cars, appliances/electronics, and big shopping sprees. You know you can’t afford it now but think “eh, whatever. I’ll pay it back soon. Swipe.” Not only will you pay interest if you carry a balance, you’ll also increase your credit utilization ratio. This is the outstanding balance on your credit card divided by the card’s limit. A high ratio (a/k/a maxing out your total credit line) indicates you’re a high-risk borrower. Penalties can include a drop in your credit score, paying more in interest, or a closed account.
A good rule of thumb is to have a credit utilization ratio of 30% or less.
Giving in to cash advances.
A cash advance allows you to use your credit card to withdraw money at an ATM or bank. Credit card companies promote this as a convenient way to access cash on the fly. It’s essentially a loan from your provider, and the benefits stop there. First, you’ll be hit with a fee, usually 2% to 5% of the advance amount. The costlier part comes in the form of interest you pay on the cash borrowed. Not only is this rate higher than your card’s interest rate, but the interest builds immediately, so costs can skyrocket if the debt isn’t paid back quickly.
Yes, credit card debt is a real thorn in your side. But the more you ignore it, the worse it can get, and the more your debt may grow. Our advice: prevent debt altogether by avoiding these really bad credit habits.
Then, become a money saving pro by downloading and using one of these killer budgeting and personal finance apps.
Ditech is not a financial advisor and the ideas outlined above are for informational purposes only. They are not intended as investment or financial advice and should not be construed as such. Consult a financial advisor before making decisions regarding important personal financial matters, and consult a tax advisor regarding the deductibility of interest and tax implications.