Credit Card Blues
You Can Overcome Them!
by Kristi Patrice Carter, J.D.
If you are currently receiving student loans, paying rent, making car payments, and/or just living from day to day, don't be fooled into thinking that you should wait until you graduate to establish financial security. The time is now to live your dreams. What are you waiting for? Are you hoping that you'll discover a new invention, inherit a million dollars, or win the lottery? Well, if you do then more power to you! You need to take control of your life. Maybe you won't get rich over night, but you will feel better about yourself, and can prepare for the future if you act now.
It wasn't until recently that I got myself out of financial debt. In law school, there was a time when I dreaded the mail woman and hoped that my creditors had lost my address. I even played the lottery and told myself that I would pay off my debts when I won. Unfortunately, I never won the lottery and if I had saved the money I spent on lottery tickets, then I would have been able to pay off my credit cards quicker. It wasn't until I began reading investment newsletters and magazines that I realized that I could take control of my spending habits.
In this article, we'll discuss ten steps to help you eliminate the credit card blues. If you follow these steps, you are well on your way to establishing financial independence. Believe me, with the right attitude and guidance, you can do it. I did it and I feel 100% better. Let's get started!!!!!
- The first step is to get a copy of your credit report and see how much debt you are in. Most credit bureaus charge a nominal fee for a report, but by law, they must provide you one free copy if you have recently been turned down for credit. You can obtain a copy of your credit history from one of the three national credit bureaus: Trans Union (800/888-4213), Experian, which used to be TRW (www.experian.com), or CBI Equifax (800/685-1111). Write a letter to Experian; P.O. Box 9600; Allen, Texas 75013. Include your full name (with middle initial and generation-Jr., II, III, etc.), address, city, state and ZIP codes for your current residences and other residences during the last five years, social security number, date of birth, and spouse's name.
- The second step is to get rid of high interest credit cards. The next time someone sets up a credit card booth at school and offers you a free pen, plastic drinking bottle, pair of sunglasses or candy bar to sign up for three or more credit cards, DO NOT DO IT. In fact, don't even sign up for one. Those credit cards have an interest rate of at least 19.8%. You are probably eligible for a 9.9% card. By switching to a lower interest rate, you can save yourself at least $125.00 if you carry at least a $1,000 balance. Your best bet is to trash department store cards and all high interest rate cards.
If you carry a balance, like most students, you should request an application from one of the following credit card companies: Capital One interest rate: 9.9%, grace period: 25 days, no annual fee. First USA (student titanium visa) interest rate 9.9%, grace period: 25 days, no annual fee. Huntington National Bank (Ohio) interest rate: 11.49%, grace period: 22 days, no annual fee, number: 800-480-2265, Pulaski bank and Trust (Arkansas - www.Pulaskibank.com) interest rate: 6.5%, annual fee: $35, grace period: 25days, number: 800-980-2265, Simmons First National Bank (Arkansas) interest rate: 8.95%, annual fee: $35, grace period: 25 days, number: 800-636-5151. Nevertheless, if you absolutely refuse to pay an annual fee, there are still credit cards for you. If you use the card at least once a year, you can apply for a card from USAA Federal Saving Bank, interest rate: 9.99%, grace period: 25 days, number: 800-922-9092.
For those of you who pay off your balance monthly, there are cards for you: Five Star Bank (Colorado Springs), interest rate: 4.9%, grace period: 25 days, number: 800-776-2265, Security Savings Bank (Kansas), interest rate: 9.9%, grace period: 25 days, number: 888-329-6559, Metropolitan Bank & Trust (Mayfield Hts.) interest rate: 13.90%, grace period: 25 days, phone: 800-837-6058.
- The third step is to apply for an American Express "blue" card for students by calling 800-258-3741. With the American Express card, you'll never be in debt because you'll be forced to pay off your balance every month. If you don't, American Express will freeze your account. By paying off your balance, you won't have to pay any interest charges, and you, in turn, save money. If you were once turned down for the card, reapply or get someone to co-sign for you. You could ask your mom or dad, it worked for me. Now, I even have my very own gold card. American Express is an excellent card and you should rely on it. Another advantage of being an American Express student member is that you get discounted airline tickets for signing up. Come on, what do you have to lose?
- The fourth step is to only use one credit card (Visa or Master card) in addition to your American Express card. It makes no sense to have several credit cards and pay several annual fees to utilize them. This, in itself can add up to over $200 in annual fees per year.
- The fifth step is to know your credit card balance, and don't go over it. Banks and credit card companies love to charge their customers extra fees. Therefore, if you go over your balance, you won't only have to pay more interest, but you'll be forced to pay an "over the limit" fee.
- The sixth step is to be careful with cash advances. Some students take out cash advances and pay other credit card bills with them. This is extremely dangerous and can get you into a lot of trouble. They usually charge a much higher interest rate for cash advances, so you'll pay for it in the long run. If you need extra money to pay off your balances, look for a part time job and put that extra money directly towards your credit card balances. Don't spend it. If the money is in the form of a personal check, you can probably sign the check over to the company and they'll credit it to your account.
- The seventh step is to always pay more than the minimum balance. Even if you can only afford to double your payments and pay $40.00 instead of $20.00, this will allow you to pay off your balance quicker. And remember, once you pay
off the balance, try not to use the card. Stick to your American Express Card, it will pay off in the long run.
- The eighth step is to ask your bank if they offer a debit card. If so, make sure you get one. A debit card allows you to use your cash card like a credit card but you never pay interest on your purchases. Instead of receiving a bill every month and paying interest on it, the bank automatically deducts the money from your checking account. Therefore, you save money.
- The ninth step is to find your credit card's closing date. By charging purchases after the closing date, you'll have additional time to pay your bills. So, it's like getting an interest free month of credit. For example, if your closing date is January 13th and you make a purchase on the 14th or 15th, then you probably won't see that charge on your bill until February 13th, or in some cases, until March 13th.
- The tenth step is to seek free financial counseling if you feel that you're in way over your head. Remember that bad credit can affect you the rest of your life. It might keep you from getting a personal, student, home equity, or car loan. And, bad credit might ruin your chances of getting that prestigious job you're interested in. Yes, some employers look at prospective employees' credit records before they hire them, and if you have bad credit, it's very likely that you won't be hired. Nevertheless, help is available. Contact Consumer Credit Counseling Services at 1-800-873-2227 or Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Greater Chicago at 312-527-3328. A counselor will analyze your monthly income, spending and savings patterns, and then recommend management methods. The counselor will help you deal with your creditors and will assist you into developing a plan to help you pay off your bills slowly and in full. Whammo, like magic, you'll gain financial security and learn to stay debt free.
About the Author
|Kirsti Patrice Carter is an experienced copywriter, a published author, and she owns three successful online writing businesses (kpcresumes.com, kpcmarketing, and kpcwriting.com). Her book, Fire Your Boss and Hire Yourself, is being featured on freelanceyourway.com.|
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