Credit cards can get a bad rap. But if used responsibly, plastic can be an awesome tool that can help you keep track of your expenses, stay on budget and keep your finances secure — not to mention all the rewards! Here’s the low-down:
Keep track of your expenses
There are some good arguments for paying in cash when you can, but I prefer credit.
One of the main reasons is that it is an easy way to keep track of your expenses while staying on budget.
If you use a finance aggregator, you can easily tag expenses and see clearly just where your hard-earned (and easily-spent!) money goes.
This feature of credit cards is really handy at tax time. My bookkeeper and accountant have access to my accounts, and track these expenses without me having to collect, sort and mail paper receipts.
While there is always the chance that your account will be hacked or your card will be stolen, most [or some] credit cards offer incredible security.
Just some of these features include:
- Security alerts. I am always grateful when I receive a text, phone call or email asking if a recent purchase is legit — my card company is there for me! I recently received such communications when I traveled to Ho Chi Minh City on vacation and checked into a hotel, and immediately after that was told that I bought a $900 gas cooktop online — purchases that fell outside my usual daily spending.
- You can receive some fraud protection. If your info is stolen and the thief goes on a spending rampage, you are most likely protected and will be reimbursed as long as you report it quickly.
- Purchase protection. Some cards automatically insure purchases in the event that an item is faulty or breaks, far beyond the manufacturer warranty. This usually makes the purchase of an extra warranty through the retailer obsolete.
Be sure to check your card’s fine print to see the exact details on the security features [or tools] they provide!
Almost every credit card has some kind of rewards program that cardholders can take advantage of. Whether you are earning rewards for the purchase of travel, fuel, cash or at your favorite retailer, there is a program and a card that can help you achieve your goals just by living your everyday life.
In my opinion, when it comes to comparing cash vs. credit cards, cards almost always win when it comes to ease of use.
There’s no need to hunt down an ATM to use a credit card, plastic doesn’t take up much space in your wallet (better yet, enter your card info into your phones and leave your card at home), no need to count out crumpled bills at the store and it’s easy to split the restaurant bill.
Another smart thing you should do now is set up autopayments. Missing payments is one of the easiest ways to mess up your credit — and timely payments of at least the minimum payment due is one of the easy step you can take toward improving your credit.
And when it comes to mom life, convenience almost always wins! Thankfully in this case — unlike fast food that is bad for your body, or bottled water that wreaks havoc on the environment — credit cards’ convenience comes with all kinds of built-in assets that, if managed appropriately, can be a great financial tool.
Emma Johnson is a veteran money journalist, noted blogger, bestselling author and an host of the award-winning podcast, Like a Mother with Emma Johnson. A former Associated Press Financial Wire reporter and MSN Money columnist, Emma has written for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Glamour, Oprah.com, U.S. News, Parenting, USA Today and others. Her #1 bestseller, The Kickass Single Mom (Penguin), was named to the New York Post's ‘Must Read” list.
Emma regularly comments on issues of modern families, gender equality, divorce, sex and motherhood for outlets like CNN, Headline News, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Fox & Friends, CNBC, NPR, TIME, MONEY, O, The Oprah Magazine and The Doctors. She was named Parents magazine’s “Best of the Web,” “Top 15 Personal Finance Podcasts” by U.S. News, and a “Most Eligible New Yorker” by New York Observer.
A popular speaker, Emma presented at the United Nations Summit for Gender Equality. Read more about Emma here.