Americans love their credit cards. They have become such a way of life that we probably think they have always been around. But actually they didn’t even exist until the 1950s. As recently as the early 1970s, only 15% of all Americans had one. Today it’s the exact opposite because nearly 90% of all adults in America have a credit card. There are more than 1.5 billion credit cards in America which is five for every man, woman and child. As I write this, the average household in America has over $15,000 in credit card debt. How many of them do you think planned on racking up any debt, much less 15,000, when they got their cards? I’m guessing not a single one.
If you want to get out of debt and get on the right financial path, the first thing you need to do is get rid of your credit cards. Simple enough. Just like if you wanted to quit smoking you’d have to throw away your cigarettes. You can’t get out of the hole you’ve dug if you’re still holding the shovel.
However, it is okay to keep one major credit card. But just one and only one. I’m not the type of person who teaches living on no credit cards. If you want to do that, I commend you. Just don’t feel like you have to. But notice I said one MAJOR card. If you have store credit cards, gas credit cards or anything other than a major credit card – cut it up. Make the plastic fly! Store and gas credit cards are so unnecessary. There is no store or gas station that takes only their card but not a major one. If so, I’ve never heard of it. Sure, some stores will entice you with a discount on your first purchase with the card, but that’s only to lure you in. They are NOT trying to help you. A certain major department store makes more money from the interest and late fees on their credit cards than they do on the actual sale of their merchandise. They’re almost like a finance company with merchandise out front. But sadly, probably every person who signed up for their card because they were offered a discount on their first purchase thought they were making a smart financial decision.
Make a game out of cutting up your cards. Put them all in a blender if you want to. Don’t just involve your spouse, get the kids in on it. Explain to them the dangers of credit cards. If they see you cutting them up, they’ll one day follow your example and won’t use them. On the other hand, if they see you using a card for every purchase you make, they’ll grow up to do the same. If you have more than one major credit card, you might be wondering which one to keep. It’s actually pretty simple. Keep the one you owe the least on because that’s the one you’ll be paying off first (more on that in future blogs).
You might be wondering about all the great benefits you get with cards like frequent flyer miles. I’ll also touch on this is a future blog, but in a nutshell that’s a lame excuse to keep a card. Very few people rack up enough points to actually fly anywhere on card purchases alone, and when they do the airlines make it very hard to use them. And you’ll be hard pressed to find a card that offers miles that doesn’t also have a huge fee. You’d be better off taking that fee and putting it towards buying a plane ticket.
I’ll get more into this and other myths about credit cards in my next blog. But for now, cut them up! You won’t miss them and when you have no credit card debt, you’ll be glad you decided to perform some plastic surgery.