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4 Tips for Using Credit Cards Without Going Into Debt

Don’t let your credit cards bury you underneath bills you can’t pay! Here, a financial expert explains how to manage credit cards without going into debt.

Before his tips, a quip from goals guru and author Brian Tracy:

“When you think about yourself as capable of achieving all your financial and personal goals, and constantly seek ways to make them into realities, your whole attitude toward yourself and your possibilities will change for the better,” he writes in Getting Rich Your Own Way: Achieve All Your Financial Goals Faster Than You Ever Thought Possible.

1. Budget to live within your means now

Credit cards should be used sparingly, to pay for necessary purchases that cannot conveniently or securely be paid in cash (including airline tickets, hotel stays, rental cars and online items), and that can be paid in full when the bill comes due. Make a budget or spending plan that lays out categories of income and necessary expenses. This current economic recession is no time to be focused on luxuries, so to achieve your financial goals, don’t splurge on unnecessary items.

2. Change your lifestyle if necessary

“If your financial situation is so tight that you are thinking of paying routine expenses — like gas, groceries or utilities — with credit, change the situation before it is too late,” Ewing urges. Commute by public transit, seek a second job or move to a less expensive home before you are forced to do so and ruin your credit history.

For more credit card tips, read 10 Tips for Paying Off Your Visa.

3. Guard your credit cards

Lower limits make fraud all the more dangerous. Be sure you have all credit cards in your possession (preferably in a safe place outside your wallet). Be cautious using cards online; be certain to use only secure sites. Do not reveal credit card numbers by phone unless you originated the call and know exactly to whom you are speaking.

Review statements carefully to be sure all charges are accurate. Dispute any questionable credit cards transaction immediately, in writing, to avoid liability.

4. Seek help if needed

If you are having a hard time making credit card payments or paying other obligations, get help. Consumers can contact their credit card issuers to request lower interest rates or “temporary hardship” status in the event of a temporary lapse in payments.

For more serious debt, seek a reputable debt resolution firm (such as Freedom Financial Network) to help you manage your debt without getting into permanent trouble or facing damaging actions such as foreclosure, bankruptcy or loan default.

“Without a doubt, we are all dealing with the consequences of the credit markets’ extremely challenging environment,” Ewing said. “But with caution and planning, each consumer can make the best possible choices to keep finances safe for the future.”

If you tend to spend all your money, read How to Stop Spending Money You Don’t Have.

If you have any tips for using credit cards without going into debt, I welcome your comments below!

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