What You Should Know about Using Credit Cards

By Sarah Coker

Featured Photo: Christiann Koepke on Unsplash

An estimated 90% of adults in the US have at least one credit card, however, there are some financial experts such as Dave Ramsey, (acclaimed author, podcaster and multi-millionaire business owner) who present the argument against using them altogether. 

Here are arguments on both sides.

Pro: Credit cards teach young people money management skills.

While teens need to be 18 years old to open their first credit card, they can be listed as an authorized user on someone else’s account as young as 13. 

Photo: Blake Wisz on Unsplash

This means they can make purchases in their own name and use it as if it were their own, though they are not the primary account holder and they are not responsible for any debts incurred. 

Depending on the habits of the primary account holder, this could be a major step towards not only establishing a positive credit history for the authorized user, but also opening up the conversation into what credit is and how to use it responsibly. 

Having established a credit history opens the door to additional payment options for college from private loan companies and possible better interest rates in the future. 

Pro: Building credit is often important for those starting out.

Photo: Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

For up-and-coming professionals in the big city, chasing their dreams and channeling their inner Carrie Bradshaw, money can be tight. 

Housing prices are high and it takes time for young adults to move up the corporate ladder towards higher paying positions. This often translates to spending their 20s renting an apartment with roommates. 

In cities without a solid public transit system, buying a car can be essential. However, for the majority of people, this means looking into financing options rather than purchasing outright. 

However, credit checks are one of the most important factors landlords or dealerships consider in deciding who to rent or sell to. Some employers even look at credit as part of the background check process. 

Though it’s not impossible to live without a credit score, it can make certain things more difficult.

Con: Credit cards teach us to accept debt as a part of life. 

The average credit card debt per person as of 2020 is over $7,000.

Photo: Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

While it is possible to use credit responsibly and pay your balance in full every month, the vast majority of people will fall behind on their payments at some point.

Credit card debt is just one more example of how Americans are becoming desensitized to debt and treating it as an everyday part of life. This is compounded with rising amounts of debt on average for student loans, car loans and personal loans, making it even easier to dig a financial hole that it is difficult to escape.  

So while credit card companies highlight perks such as points, airline miles and cash back, the risks often outweigh the rewards. 

Photo by Mikhail Nilov from Pexels

Con: Using a credit card can be a crutch.

Financial experts may not agree on the necessity of having credit cards, however, a universal recommendation for anyone managing their finances is to keep a budget. 

Keeping a written plan as to exactly how much to spend versus how much to save is an extremely valuable skill … assuming you stick to it. 


One of the potential downsides of having a credit card is that it allows us to rationalize the boundaries we have set on our money, as the boundaries may not be as firm as our budget suggests. For instance, you may not have an extra $100 in the budget for that cute designer sweater, but you can buy it anyway if you use a credit card. This can be a tough negative habit to break. 

Summary 

Having a credit card can be a valuable tool for those who understand their limits and how to use it responsibly. However, living without one and choosing to avoid the potential risks is also a perfectly valid option.

Read next: 5 Career Development Tips in the Age of a Pandemic

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