Welcome to the start of spring, and other new multi-piece installment here on Macro Mondays! For the next 10 weeks, we will be addressing the ups, downs, strengths and weaknesses of credit cards. Just like with budgets, credit cards are a sore spot for a lot of people (myself included), but once you understand the ins and outs of responsible use, you can do yourself a lot of favors by just having that much credit available to you.
Tune in each Monday for more tips on credit cards; we'll begin today with a basic overview that tees up the topic for the coming weeks.
For more information on these Macro Monday pieces, you can view the original posts from Investopedia.
An Introduction to the World of Credit Cards
Americans have a voracious appetite for credit. In August 2017 alone, more than 6.1 million credit cards were originated, with a total credit limit of $35.2 billion, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau reported. And while it is possible to make do without a credit card, they can make life more convenient when used responsibly. They make it possible to delay payment on purchases, easily build the credit required to get a mortgage and earn rewards for routine spending.
The downside of credit cards is that they make it all-too-easy to live beyond one’s means and go into debt. When that happens, credit cards become not tools of convenience but tools of misery. High interest rates and compound interest put many households into debt that they struggle to climb out of, debt that makes it harder to save for retirement and achieve other financial goals. Americans collectively carried more than $1 trillion in credit card debt as of June 2017, the highest since the Great Recession in 2008.
If you’re new to credit cards, we’re here to help. This tutorial will explain everything from what a credit card is and how it works, to how to choose and apply for a card, to how to use credit cards wisely and even use them to save money. We’ll also explain how credit card grace periods and interest work and how to read a credit card agreement before applying for a card so you understand what you’re signing up for.