How to avoid falling into a ‘credit card trap’

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Paying with credit cards is convenient, and you can spread out your payments if money is tight.

But rising interest rates are making credit cards dangerous these days.

Alicia Turner knows that. This mom says buying food for her family is getting more and more expensive every week.

“It’s very hard to purchase what you are trying to purchase,” she said.

With grocery inflation running well over 10%, she says she is putting more charges onto her credit card.

And if you don’t pay the bill in full every month, that bill can get bigger very quickly.

More credit card use at the same time as rising rates

Inflation and the end of stimulus checks mean many consumers are putting more purchases onto their credit cards right now.

But at the same time, rates are shooting up, with the average credit card interest rate now over 18%, according to Bankrate.com.

As card rates approach 20%, financial experts say it’s easy to fall into the “credit card trap.”

That’s where you don’t have enough cash each month to pay even half of your monthly credit card bill, so the balance keeps going up and up.

Suzanne Powell is a financial advisor and author of “The Ultimate Money Moves for Women over 50.”

She says, “what could have taken you five years to pay something off, may now take eight or nine or 10 years.”

Powell says when carrying a balance on your card with 18% interest, a vacation or big screen TV can cost you a lot more than you ever dreamed.

“Over time, they really don’t realize they pretty much paid double for it,” she said.

Powell suggests if you are falling into the credit card trap:

  • Try to pay down your balance, starting with the highest rate credit card first.
  • Look for a zero percent balance transfer card, if you qualify. There are still cards that will charge zero percent interest if you move a balance to them.
  • Pay with cash or a debit card, not a credit card, when possible. Limit credit cards to gas, groceries and essential purchases.

Mom Alicia Turner is trying not to rack up big credit card bills, but inflation is making it difficult.

“It gets tighter,” she said. “You have to work twice as hard for your income.”

More bad news for many families: Credit card rates are expected to rise even further in the coming weeks.

So be careful how often you say “charge it,” so you don’t waste your money.

About the Author

John Matarese

John's goal is to help as many TV viewers as possible save money, avoid bad deals, know a rip-off when one comes their way, and be educated consumers. His informative weekly consumer segment "Don't Waste Your Money" now airs on 45 TV stations from San Diego to Tampa to Houston and Cincinnati. More.

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