Credit Cards– some people might think of this as a dirty word; others might think of it as their saving grace. No matter what your stance on credit cards may be there are many pros and cons to owning and using one.

When I was 18, I got my first credit card offer in the mail. As a person who is very bad at saving money, I quickly responded “YES! SIGN ME UP!” and was soon sent a nice pink plastic card that, in my young eyes, was the key to open so many doors for things I never was able to afford. I was soon purchasing an Mp3 player, shoes, purses, you name it, but I was soon rudely awakened by my credit card bill. The minimum payment was only $10, so I thought, my minimum wage job would be fine to cover it! In no time I had maxed out my card, and decided to sign up for another so that I could buy groceries while my paycheck went to paying down my first credit card. I tell you this because this is the slippery slope which many Americans have slipped. Credit can seem like an easy end, a great short term solution, but with credit, unless you plan to pay the balance off immediatly, the credit card companies will always win.

Store credit cards are one area where many people get easily trapped. Many stores will offer a discount to those holding a credit line with them, for example they might have a 30% discount for thier card holders– the trick is that you are already paying a 20-30% interest rate, so the discount is actually just giving you store price! What you once saw as a great deal you will now be paying for over a longer period ot time. One major downfall of credit cards in general, not just store cards, is that the interest will end up being the bulk of the balance if you let it get out of hand, and that $12 pizza or that $38 handbag that you just had to have, now costs $50 or higher, and you are paying for it long after the item itself is gone. I know I personally am still paying for groceries that I bought as a freshman in college!

Credit Cards, when used responsibly, can be a good thing, however. Building your credit, especially as a young person, can be very important if you ever want to get a car loan or a mortgage–having a credit card with a small balance that you pay on time every month can help to build good credit.

Credit can also be very helpful when you need some money in case of an emergency, like having a credit card that you keep just for auto emergencies or medical expenses.This can be extremely important when your car needs a new transmission and you have already emptied your savings account trying to pay for just the labor costs alone and its not even finished. Many people also keep an emergency credit card in case they became stranded while on a trip and unable to get home on time, this will help ease the stress of paying a few extra nights for a hotel.

Credit Cards can also make shopping a breeze, which is great especially if you are someone who does not have a lot of time to wait around in line at a store; and when you do have to go to the store the card is so easy to use, no more digging in your pockets for change or emptying your purse to find that extra dollar that you just know you have somewhere.

Another major benefit of a credit card is security. If you lose your cash, or if it is stolen, there is no way to claim what was taken, however if you use a credit card that becomes lost or stolen, you can report it to the company that issued it and many times the company will refund the amount that the theif used and refund any fees incurred by the theft.

Overall Credit does not have to be a scary thing, When used responsibly it can help to open a few doors, but when abused it can cause many more doors to close. With hope, credit card can one day cease to be a dirty word.