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Tips on avoiding credit card debt.

These tips may seem like common sense, because they are. What has happened is so many of us lose that common sense viewpoint when we see items we want but don’t need.

Credit cards can be a great thing. They’re convenient, they can help build good credit if used properly and they are very useful in emergencies. However, they can be dangerous.

How sweet the temptation to overspend, how disastrous the end result of overspending. The danger is when you charge more than you can afford, make very low monthly payments and combine that with high credit card interest rates. This is the basic cause for many people to spiral into debt.

To avoid becoming one of the millions of Americans struggling under a huge amount of credit card debt, learn to use credit cards wisely. Here’s how:

Think of your credit card as a cash substitute, swiping the card does not pay for the purchase. There will be a bill in the mail. If you are unable to pay this bill interest will be charged on that purchase. Take a moment and calculate the interest rate (even if for one month) on your purchase and add that to the price – is the purchase still worth the extra cost? Keep in mind the lower the interest rate the less additional cost to you.

Charge only what you can afford. You don’t have enough cash to cover the purchase, and the item is not for an emergency. If you can’t afford an item or service, but need it now (for example, you must repair your car so you can get to work), charge it. At the same time you should have a plan as to how you will pay off the balance over time. Figure out how much you can pay each month and how long it will take you to pay the balance off.

Create a budget. Knowing what you can afford ahead of time keeps your spending under control. Make each credit card purchase only within the framework of your budget. If you find you cannot stick to your budget when shopping, then don’t carry your credit card with you, keep it at home.

Pay all (or the majority) of the balance off each month. By paying off the entire outstanding balance each month you will avoid interest charges. Also this is an excellent way to increase your credit rating. When paying the majority you are also limiting the added expense of interest charges.

Pay on time. Late fees and penalties for late payments add up. And, many credit cards jack up your interest rate if you pay late even just once. And as you may have guessed, late payments damage your credit record.

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