This is the third in a series of weekly posts titled “How I Did It”. I’ve been so inconsistent with the weekly postings, I’m not sure that I can call it a weekly series. The past week has been very unusual with two blizzards and getting stuck overnight at work. I will try my best to post on a weekly basis. Throughout this series I will be describing my methods of personal finance, frugality, and what it took to get where I am today.
If you’ve read the series from the beginning, you’ll notice that I received my first credit card when I opened my checking and savings accounts. This was around 2004 when they were giving credit out like free pancakes at the diner. To recap, my local bank offered me a credit card. I was hesitant at first and I asked a few of questions that were important to me:
- Is there a monthly/yearly fee associated with this card?
- Does it cost anything to apply?
- What’s the benefit of holding this card?
- Reward Points: 1 point for every dollar spent
- If the card it paid off every month, will I incur a finance charge?
- Not unless cash advances are made
Once I had the questions answered, I sat and thought about the positives and negatives of holding a credit card.
- Building a credit history at an early age
- Have it in case of emergencies
- Order items online without too much worry; It’s not linked to my checking account
- Ability to reserve hotels and rental cars without putting a hold on my checking account
- I could slip into debt if I did not think about my spending.
- Someone could steal my card number and use it.
- The company could change my terms of agreement at any time. If I did not pay attention to the changes, it could cost me in fees.
After careful consideration, I decided that the pros outweigh the cons and I went for the credit card. About a week later the approval letter arrived in the mail. The credit limit: $500; not too bad since this was my first card and I haven’t held a job for too long.
Using this card responsibly, every month, opened up another door from my local bank. About two years later, they were offering me another credit card. After reading their terms and talking with the local representative, I decided to go for it.
The advantage of this card was:
- It was from the same company as my local bank
- It had a better rewards structure
- A higher credit limit
Now I had two credit cards in my name from the same bank. A few weeks later I understood what their reasoning was. I received a letter in the mail about how my first credit card company was separating from my local bank. I believe the local bank wanted to keep me as a customer.
In the end, I am glad I signed up for these credit cards. It’s been 5 years since my first card and I’ve had a great experience ever since.
By making this small first step, I was able to build my credit history at an early age. Keep in mind, I always pay my cards off. It does not make any sense to leave a balance on them. You’ll never gain back the money in interest payments through a savings account. If I overspend, I tap into my savings account to pay it off. Yes it hurts, but it hurts less than owing more money in interest.