Credit Column

Whether you love it, hate it, or love hating it, credit is a part of our capitalist experience and one that is a double edged sword. Use it responsibly and you’ll discover that the leverage it provides can enrich your life considerably. Use it irresponsibly and you’ll discover that the leverage it provides can put you in a deep hole of debt that can take years to recover from.


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How I earn credit card rewards responsibly

The topic of maximizing credit-card rewards seems to be a popular one lately, especially in the world of personal finance blogging.

Many of us use our credit cards to pay our bills and monthly expenses. We earn cash back and rake in the rewards. Some of us have even mastered the envious ability to churn credit-card rewards to pay for awesome vacations.

Because personal finance readers are so financially savvy, we usually take for granted that, for many people, this is a dangerous habit. After all, the average US household credit card debt is upwards of $15,000.

If you do it right, earning credit card rewards is a great money hack. Last year, for example, I earned $450 in cash-back. But you should have control of your finances before trying any kind of hack like this.

Let’s say you have control of your financial situation and you’re ready to play this credit-card-rewards game. How do you play properly? And what precautions should you take?

Here’s what’s worked for me.
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5 signs your credit card sucks

If your credit card sucks, it belongs hereWhen it comes to choosing the right credit card, you’ve got plenty of options. A good card can give you a long promotional period, a great interest rate and reward you with some nice benefits. On the other hand, a bad card at best takes up undeserved space in your wallet, like so many stripes of vanilla ice cream in a carton of neapolitan, and at worst can result in larger balances and serious financial damage.
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Why you spend more when you use a credit card

You tend to spend more if you use a credit card than you would with cashEver feel like you go on bigger spending binges when you use a credit card than you would have with cash? You’re not the only one.

There’s a lot of research that suggests using a credit card to make purchases usually means that those purchases are bigger than what we’d make with cash. But if the math is the same, why should it matter which method of payment you use?
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Can You Really Build Credit Without Credit Cards?

Visa Credit CardIn recent years, there’s been something of a backlash against the credit industry and the credit scoring industry. Some consumers don’t like the idea of using credit cards, and they are getting rid of them.

Unfortunately, the credit industry is so ingrained in our financial infrastructure that eschewing all credit can be detrimental. It’s not just lenders that look at your credit history; insurers, landlords, and even some employers might have a peek at some version of your credit report.

As a result, participating in the credit industry is a necessary evil for many consumers. But what if you could build a credit file without using credit cards or other loans? That’s what alternative credit scoring is all about.


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Are These 5 Non-Credit Items Ruining Your Credit Score?

Ruin your creditWhen we think of having a good credit score, we often think of paying down debt and making sure that we pay our credit card statements on time.

However, there’s more to maintaining a good credit score than just showing good credit habits. Non-credit situations, if reported to the credit bureaus can turn into a problem that results in a lower credit score. Before you think that your utility payments or your parking tickets don’t matter to your credit rating, think again.

Here are 5 non-credit items that could spell disaster for your credit score:


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What You Need to Know about Applying for a Credit Card as a College Graduate

Visa Credit CardNow that you have graduated from college, it’s time to start considering how you will organize your finances. A credit card can help you build your credit history, making it easier for you to qualify for larger loans, like mortgages. On top of that, a good credit report can mean that you save money in insurance premiums and receive other financial benefits.

As your consider taking the next step in your financial life, here are some things you should know about applying for a credit card:

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8 People Who Can Access Your Credit Report

Credit fileSomewhere, in the vast reaches of the digital world, your credit report sits. Your credit file includes information about your address (and previous addresses), as well as a list of all your credit accounts and your payment histories with those accounts. Actual amounts of debt you have may be revealed. In some cases, employer information is included, although employment dates and salaries may not appear.

Not all of the information contained in your credit report is used to calculate your credit score, but the information in your credit report can still be of use to the people who are looking into your history. So, who can access your credit report, and why? You might be surprised at how many people are allowed to look at your credit file.

Here are 8 of those people who are allowed to take a peek at your credit history:

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5 Ways Credit Cards Could Be Messing Up Your Life

Credit Cards and Your LifeNormally, when we think of credit cards, we think of convenience. While we might think that they can lead to debt if not used responsibly, many of us mostly see them a financial tool.

With credit cards, it’s possible to earn rewards, as well as easily make payments without the need to carry cash around. But are credit cards too convenient? And could their use actually cause more damage than good?

Here are 5 ways that credit cards could actually be leading to a worse quality of life:

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