1

for starters, I'm a 23 year old in the USA.

So when I lived at home, I took out a loan to buy a car, which my parents cosigned on, this was my primary credit-building exercise. I ended up paying that off by time I was nearly out of college. Through scholarships, grants and working, I was also able to pay my student loans from the tech school that I attended by time I graduated.

Since then I got a credit card from my local credit union, where I've used it sparingly. I've had this card since 2014, it expired once, and they sent me a new one. It's never had a credit line higher than $1000, which I'm sure has something to do with me never using it.

I believe my primary reasons for using debit over the credit are:

  • I don't like buying things that I can 'buy' rather than afford. If I used the card, I literally paid it off that same second.

  • I don't own a car or anything anymore so I don't get random bills that sneak up on me that would require me to pay with possible money I didn't have

  • Debt in general just scares me, I've seen family members struggle

  • $1000 is too low for stuff that I would actually need credit to buy


So my main questions are:

  1. If I'm not actively using my card is it hurting me (no credit is bad credit).

  2. Should I look into getting a different card with either a higher limit or better rewards to incentivize me to use it?

  3. What would be some beginner ways to start working my credit card into payments (I pay my lease and utilities through paypal and hook it to my bank debit so I don't have to pay the fee.

4

It sounds like you are not crazy about the idea about increasing your credit card usage, which is perfectly fine. If you don't want to use credit cards then don't use them. It may not be worth the extra few percent of benefits that you might get by using the cards, considering that you might also either overspend or miss a payment, wiping out all of those benefits in fees and interest.

In addition, I can speak from both experience and research when I say that some people tend to spend more when using credit cards than cash, so there may be benefits from not using cards even if you never pay a dime in interest.

Granted this is partially my opinion and other may disagree or call me crazy for turning down "free money", but I see absolutely nothing wrong with not using credit cards given the trouble you have seen it cause within your family and your personal apprehension to using them.

To answer the question, no it is not hurting you to not use your cards. If you do not have any late payments and do not over-extend credit overall then you should be fine. You might have a slightly better credit score by having a small utilization, but it is probably not worth the stress, complexity, and risk to go into debt just to tweak a credit score that only benefits you when going into more debt.

  • 1
    no one gets wealthy on credit card "rewards". Those rewards come at a price or the card company would not provide them. It only takes one missed payment (which can happen even if you have auto-pay) to undo the supposed benefits of card rewards. Furthermore, the consumer protections available to credit cards are all available to debit cards. Simplify life - only spend money you have. – rocketman Feb 1 '18 at 21:54
  • @rocketman that's how I feel now, with only spending money I have, but also I don't want to be down the line, unable to get a loan because I haven't use my cc to build credit along the way. – knocked loose Feb 1 '18 at 22:20
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    @rocketman To each their own, of course, but saving 2+% on everything I buy certainly makes me wealthier than not doing so, though it may seem insignificant, adds up.. – Hart CO Feb 1 '18 at 23:39
  • @HartCO if you make and spend $1 million, and get $20k (2%) in rewards, is the 20k what makes you wealthy? – D Stanley Feb 2 '18 at 0:04
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    @DStanley 20k? Come on, you know better, invest the savings for 20-40 years and it'll be much more. It's not going to be the biggest contributor to my wealth, but yes, it's making me wealthy along with all the other little and big things that add up over time. – Hart CO Feb 2 '18 at 1:20
2

In reverse order:

3) If you have a bill that costs no extra to pay by credit card, pay it by credit card. The rewards, grace period, and consumer protections are worth it if you can pay the card off in full every month.

2) Better rewards are nice. Higher limit isn't, unless your planned spending (which is less than the amount you can pay off each month) goes higher than your current limit.

1) A record of on-time credit card payments will improve your credit score if you have no such record at the moment.

  • When I wrote this, the points were numbered 3, 2, 1. SE is too clever for its own good, sometimes. – Rupert Morrish Feb 1 '18 at 21:23
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    Replacing . with ) fixes that “feature”. – Peter K. Feb 2 '18 at 1:46
1

I've had credit cards for over 40 years and I have never paid a penny in finance charges. Credit cards should be used for convenience not for spending money you don't have. I think that the only exception to that would be an emergency situation, perhaps the need for medical care, etc.

There are lots of web sites which discuss how to improve (or not damage) your credit score. I can't help you with that. What I would suggest is that when appropriate, you find the highest reward cards and use them for expenditures that you were going to make anyway. For example, I have an Am Exp card that pays 3% on grocery and drug stores all year round as well as a Citibank card that pays 2% on everything. Things that get me 2% include my car, home and health insurance, most of my utilities (TV, internet, phone, water). Add to that all discretionary expenditures (clothes, entertainment, etc.) and it really adds up.

In addition, there are many cash bonus offers for opening new cards (spend $500 or $1,000 and get $100 to $200). I was going to spend this money anyway so why not get something extra for it? I do several of these a year. Recently, I got $500 from a bank for putting $15k in a 3 month savings account along with a direct deposit.

Does it sound like I'm a piker? You bet I am. I'll take free money any and every day. For the past 9 years I have been assisting in the financial support of an ailing cousin with a blind husband so while these perks are only a small portion of it, they too appreciate the largesse of the system :->)

0

In my view, if you don't trust yourself with credit cards or just don't like the idea of using them, then don't. If you feel confident you can control your spending and always make on-time payments, then credit cards can save you money through rewards (5% back on Amazon, 2% cash back on all purchases, travel rewards, etc) as well as help your credit score over time.

If I'm not actively using my card is it hurting me (no credit is bad credit)?

According to this article from Bankrate.com no credit balance is slightly worse than a low balance. I've read that sometimes companies close credit card accounts due to inactivity, but guessing it's exceedingly rare.

Should I look into getting a different card with either a higher limit or better rewards to incentivize me to use it?

Every retailer takes the fee they pay (merchant fees) for accepting credit cards into account when establishing prices. You're losing 2% cash back on every purchase you make with your debit card, or whatever rewards program you choose offers. In essence you're paying more for everything when using a debit card (unless there's a surcharge for paying with credit card). A higher limit is helpful as a significant factor in your credit score is what percentage of your credit you are utilizing. So a $800 purchase on your $1000 limit is much higher utilization than same on a $5000 limit. I've read a number of places that suggest targeting 1-10% utilization, but I've never given it too much thought.

What would be some beginner ways to start working my credit card into payments (I pay my lease and utilities through paypal and hook it to my bank debit so I don't have to pay the fee.

You could set up your credit card on paypal too. Re-iterating above, if not comfortable with it, don't. If you trust yourself then using it for everything is advantageous.

  • "So a $800 purchase on your $1000 limit is much higher utilization than same on a $5000 limit." Only if it's still on the card at the end of the billing period. There's nothing stopping you from from paying it early. (I pay off our cards every Sunday night...) – RonJohn Feb 1 '18 at 21:02
  • @RonJohn I'm sure there's a thousand articles saying a thousand different things, but my understanding is that utilization is not based on balance at end of billing period, but throughout, so the 80% utilization would be slightly negative even if paid off before close of cycle. I'm no expert on that stuff, I don't play the credit score game anymore. – Hart CO Feb 1 '18 at 21:25
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    Banks only send balance information to the credit bureaus once a month, and it's "point-in-time" data, not the average daily balance. – RonJohn Feb 1 '18 at 21:29
  • @RonJohn I'm skeptical about that claim, the last time I took out a mortgage I had to make a random payment mid-month to get utilization down to a certain threshold, and when they re-checked a couple days after my payment they panicked because new charges had cleared causing need for additional payment (luckily just handled at closing). So at the least a hard-inquiry may trigger mid-cycle reporting, and perhaps it happens without hard-inquiries. – Hart CO Feb 1 '18 at 21:39

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