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Three Credit Card Tips for a Financially Fit Summer

June 15, 2016

3QUQ142DHCIt’s summertime and the livin’ is easy… Well, “easy” is debatable. The sweltering heat of a Nebraska summer often makes me want to barricade myself in my home with the thermostat turned down to 65 degrees until I notice the leaves outside turning brown. Yesterday alone, I nearly drowned in a pool of sweat while watching a t-ball game. The YMCA may now consider having trained lifeguards available at every recreational field.

Personal grudges against the sun aside, with school out, summer can be a great time to get away. Unfortunately, vacations, excursions, and day trips can often draw temptation to swipe credit cards with little regard for the bills that will land in the mailbox of your future self. With financial fitness in mind, today we offer up three credit card tips to help you and your students have a great, credit-friendly summer.

1. Limit the number of cards you have

More cards mean more power, right? Hold on there, Tim “The Toolman” Taylor. (There’s a strong chance that I’m dating myself with that reference.) One credit card should be sufficient for your spending needs. Applying for a lot of credit at once can hurt your credit score, and your credit score’s dive into the deep end will prove devastating to your ability to get loans for major purchases. If you already have more than one card, consider carrying just one (for emergencies only) at a time. Remember, “Don’t leave home without it,” was just a suggestion, not a commandment.

2. Pay off your balance each month

Credit card debt is a lot like the grass on your lawn. When it begins to grow, it seems harmless. As it grows more, you may find excuses to avoid cutting it (or paying off the balance). Alas, the longer you put it off, the scarier it gets, and soon you’re peering out at a forest of unkempt grasses (or unpaid debt) tall enough to hide small pets or children. Pay off your balance each month to avoid escalating debt. If you can’t pay off the whole balance, concentrate on paying off your cards with the highest interest rates first.

3. Beware of cash advances

For some summer excursions, you’ll want to have cash in your pocket, but think twice before withdrawing that money with your credit card. Interest will accrue on the transaction from the moment you accept the cash, and you also may encounter transaction fees. This means that a seemingly harmless $20 withdrawal from an ATM could easily cost you $30 or more. Ouch.

There’s three credit card tips down, but we have more advice to keep you from sweating your finances this summer. For more credit card advice, check out the Credit Card Tips in our Financial Literacy Library.  And remember, the library contains many other resources you can use to stay financially fit.

Spend smart, and stay cool.


Derek Larson, Nelnet

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