We've slammed credit cards many times here in Fooldom, as these articles can attest:

But the truth is, there are many advantages to using credit cards, as long as you don't charge more than you can pay. For example:

  • Getting monthly credit card statements can help you keep track of your spending.

  • You don't have to carry around much cash, and you can respond to emergencies as they arise.

  • You can enjoy a short-term loan, not paying for what you charge for up to several weeks.

  • You get certain protections and perks with credit-card charges, such as extended warranties and fraud protection, depending on the card.

  • You can build a strong credit record to help you get a good deal on loans, such as mortgages.

  • You can make friends and impress people if the credit card you whip out is especially attractive.

Here's a somewhat new benefit: Paying by credit card is, in many places, becoming a faster way to pay. Recently, at more and more places of business, such as Starbucks (NASDAQ:SBUX), once your card is swiped, there's nothing to sign -- you're done. You can expect this convenience at even more stores in the future. Visa has introduced its "No Signature Required" program for transactions less than $25, in order to keep up with competitors MasterCard (NYSE:MA) and American Express (NYSE:AXP). Visa's contactless credit card aims to make checking out even faster.

Learn more in our Credit Center, which features some surprisingly interesting info about the credit card industry. Being smart about credit can potentially save you tens of thousands of dollars. You can also read about all things credit-related on our Consumer Credit/Credit Cards discussion board.

And finally, remember that credit cards are big business. If the industry doesn't make you uneasy, check it out. Look into card-issuing companies such as American Express, Capital One, JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, Bank of America, and Wells Fargo. Many are sporting high dividends and are likely to keep making money off credit cards in the years ahead.

Bank of America and JPMorgan Chase are Motley Fool Income Investor picks. Take the newsletter dedicated to dividend-payers for a 30-day free spin. Starbucks is a Stock Advisor recommendation, and MasterCard is an Inside Value recommendation.

This article was originally published on May 11, 2006. It has been updated by Joey Khattab, who does not own any of the shares mentioned. The Fool's disclosure policy is platinum all the way.