The latest scheme from many credit card companies includes cutting limits then charging the customers for being "over the limit" when they weren't just a month ago. Also, a number of very good credit card customers have seen their card limits cut, their cards cancelled all together, and their credit dinged through no fault of their own. Some have even been offered "bribes" to cancel their credit cards. It is my fervent hope that these horrible credit card companies (not the few which do business in an honest way but all the rest) promptly go bankrupt and cease to exist. Anyway, I digress, here's some ways to work the credit card situation to your benefit:
- Don't rely on credit cards for emergencies. When you need it most, you may find your limit decreased or your card cancelled all together. A better choice? Put $1000-$5000 in a bank account or two that you can access with an ATM card that can be used as a credit/debit card. The payoff? You will be using your own money, paying zero interest, and you may even make interest on your money while it waits for an emergency. Some people think this sounds like a lot of money but it really isn't when you consider how much can be made from a garage sale, from getting rid of some stuff on eBay, or by working an extra job for a month.
- Pay off your credit cards ASAP. The only way not to lose at the credit card game is not to make yourself a victim to the whims of the credit card companies. If you don't use credit cards and don't have any balance on credit cards, you won't fall prey to their shady tactics.
- Check your credit report annually at the minimum. You want to make sure the information is accurate and that you don't have any "mystery" credit cards in your name.
- Consider paying cash for everything. The people who really don't worry about their credit scores are the people who don't need them. These people pay cash (ie: check, cash, or debit card) for everything from groceries, to cars, to real estate. It really doesn't matter what the credit bureau says about you if you aren't relying on it for a loan. True, employers, insurance companies, and others may use your credit report for their own purposes but you can get around this by explaining your rationale about not using credit and backing it up by being debt free and having a solid stash of cash on hand.
- Opt out of receiving junk mail. Not only will this help keep the planet green and cut down on the amount of junk papers you need to shred/recycle, it will also help protect you from identity theft. A common scheme is to pick up the pre-approved credit card application that you ripped up and tossed in the trash, and put the identity thief's info on the application. The card and bills can be hijacked by the thief but the damage they do can be found on your credit bureau reports for years to come.