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Are Credit Cards The Root To All Evil?

Aug 17, 2007
If money is the root to all evil, say many financial experts, then credit cards are the demon's spawn. For evidence, they point to spiraling debt and the dire reports that the UK has become a nation of debtors who live by the principle of instant gratification. But the prophets of doom neglect the other side of the statistics that suggest things aren't as bad as they seem - particularly not where credit cards are concerned.

Credit cards are more than just a convenient way to pay for things. Dubbed 'your flexible friend' in an early 1970s advert campaign, they've more than proved that they are indeed flexible, and they are certainly friendly - if you pay attention to how you use them. If, on the other hand, you allow the easy availability of credit to seduce you into overspending, you can find yourself deep in financial hot water. When used responsibly, they can offer many benefits:

- Protection in an emergency
Need emergency motor repairs? Have to pay for a broken window? The roof spring a leak unexpectedly? A credit card can cover unexpected, necessary expenses without having to be approved by a bank for a loan.

- Cashless purchases and transactions
Do your regular - or extraordinary - shopping without having to carry wads of cash with you. Credit cards are safer to carry than cash. If your credit cards are lost or stolen, the law places strict limits on how much you're liable for in terms of loss. If your cash is lost or stolen, you can just kiss it goodbye.

- Convenience for purchases
No need to stand in a queue for concert or movie tickets. Just pick up the telephone and place an order for them, and pay with your credit card. Credit cards make it easy to purchase over the telephone, online or by mail.

- Ease of record-keeping
When you pay by credit card, you've got a handy recollection of all your purchases when you receive your account statement. It's an easy way to track your spending, especially if you use a credit card for your day to day expenses.

- Instant gratification
It's not all a bad thing. If you've budgeted for it, credit cards are a good way to enjoy the fruits of your labor while you're paying for it. If you run into a chance to replace that old computer at an incredible price, you can take advantage of the savings with a credit card and pay it off over time.

Unfortunately, not all is sweetness and light in the world of the credit card. UK consumers have racked up over 56bn in debt - up from 14bn just ten years ago. For those who use cards to live beyond their means, those shiny bits of plastic can be a powerful temptation to spend what they can't repay. And because of the way that interest builds on an unpaid balance, what started out as just a little indulgence can become a lifelong burden. Experts offer the following bits of advice to help you avoid credit card debt:

- Don't apply for any card you're offered. Take the time to compare all the options at a UK comparison website, where you can lay out the benefits and terms of each option side by side and choose the one that's right for you.

- Use the right credit card for the situation. For small purchases that you'll pay off when the account comes due, use a card that offers rewards - and remember to pay it off when the account comes due. For bigger purchases that you'll carry on your account balance, use a card with a low APR to keep your interest rates as low as possible.

The most important thing to remember is that credit cards are a tool, and like any tool, can be used for better - or worse. Be responsible in your spending, and you'll find that their evil side is one you never see.
About the Author
Jon Francis has been involved with finance for many years! With an in-depth knowledge of the credit card UK market help helps others get the best from a credit card.
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