How to Safely Return to Using a Credit Card If You Have Had a Bad Debt Experience


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When used responsibly, credit cards are a key part of a healthy financial life. But when misused, revolving debt becomes financial quicksand.

“Credit cards are a convenient, cashless way to shop and they also provide a great opportunity to build strong credit,” said Trae Bodge, shopping expert and founder of “But they can also play against you with high balances, missed payments, etc.”

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Millions of Americans have gone into debt this way and many of them are reluctant to pick up plastic again. It is an understandable reaction but doomed to fail. The best thing to do is get back on the horse, but only after you’ve learned enough that the credit card companies are working for you instead of the other way around.

Start by learning the basics

When you use a credit card, either the bank collects money from you in the form of interest and fees, or you collect money from the bank in the form of points, miles, and cashback. money. Only one of you can win, and the best way to beat the bank is to take the time to learn the basics of credit cards, including:

  • How the APR is calculated
  • How interest is compounded and the minimum payment trap
  • When Lenders Report Late Payments and How It Affects Your Credit (It’s Bad)
  • The fact that you’ll avoid finance charges by paying off your statement balance each month
  • How factors such as payment history, credit usage, and credit age affect your borrowing power
  • The impact that applying for credit or closing accounts can have on your credit

Mastering the basics is not difficult, but it is beyond the scope of this article. Organizations like the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau – as well as most banks, credit unions, and credit bureaus – offer concise, easy-to-follow tutorials.

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Recover easily and replenish your credit with a starter card

If you’ve just gotten out of bad debt, your credit has probably been damaged along the way. Don’t worry, there is a map for you.

“Sign up for a credit card specifically designed for low credit users,” said Jared Beilby, credit card analyst at MerchantMaverick. “These cards usually have low credit limits, which means you won’t be able to spend too much without paying off your balance first.”

Along with built-in spending controls, the best cards for people with weak credit also tend to include credit-building features, such as gradual increases in credit limit.

“There are also other options such as the secure card application, which uses your own money as collateral when you deposit a deposit with the bank,” said Lisa Fischer, director of loans and growth at Way of missions, a financial services company for people with low credit.

Fischer cited his company’s own Visa card, which is designed to replenish credit, but other good options include the Discover it Secured and Capital One Platinum Secured card.

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Challenge the way you think about credit

Credit isn’t someone else’s money, and it’s not a way to buy things you can’t afford. If that’s the state of mind, you’re doomed to end up where you started – in debt.

“If you’re new to using a credit card, now is a good time to approach credit card use differently,” Bodge said. “Rather than treating your credit card as free money or using it to buy items that are over your budget, only use it for things that can be paid off in full that month.”

The best thing you can do, other than never miss a payment, is pay for your purchases immediately so that there is no risk of carrying a balance and incurring interest charges.

“Treat your credit card like a debit card,” said John Eringman, a personal finance educator known as Johnefinance to TIC Tac and Instagram, where he has over 1.2 million combined followers. “Every time you make a purchase with your credit card, go to the app and make a payment. This will get you into the habit of always paying off your credit card and not spending more than you can afford.

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Last updated: October 4, 2021

About the Author

Andrew Lisa has been writing professionally since 2001. Award winning writer Andrew was once one of the youngest nationally distributed columnists for the nation’s largest newspaper union, the Gannett News Service. He worked as the business editor for amNewYork, the most circulated newspaper in Manhattan, and as the editor for, a financial publication at the heart of the Wall Street investor community in New York.

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