3 Important Credit Card Tips I Learned From My Parents

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My parents taught me how to use credit cards wisely. Here are some of the tidbits of wisdom they shared.

Growing up, money wasn't a taboo subject in my house. Did I know how much my parents earned? No (well, at least not until I had to apply for financial aid for college). But did my parents talk to us kids about money? All the time.

In fact, my parents were firm believers that credit cards, though useful in their own right, could also be quite dangerous. And I'm thankful they shared the following tips with me when I was younger so that by the time I opened my first credit card, I knew how to manage it.

1. Never charge more than what you can pay off immediately

Credit cards conveniently allow you to carry a balance you can pay off over time, and as long as you make your minimum payment each month, your credit score won't take a hit. But getting consumers to carry balances is precisely how credit card companies make money -- and how people lose money all the time.

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One thing my parents taught me was to never rack up more credit card charges than what I'd be able to pay off in full by the time my bills came due. And to this day, I'm happy to say that I've never carried a credit card balance. As such, I've never had to throw away money on interest.

2. Don't have too many

I used to comment on the fact that my parents used the same credit card all the time to make purchases. In fact, I'm pretty convinced that at one point, they only had the one card in their name.

One rule my parents liked to follow was to avoid having too many credit cards at the same time. Their logic was that the more cards you have, the more temptation you have to spend.

These days, I do happen to have a handful of credit cards. But it's not an excessive amount by any means -- it's just five, one of which I only keep open because it adds to my credit history, which helps my credit score.

3. Don't use your credit card as your emergency backup plan

My first job as a pre-teen was a babysitting gig that paid very minimal wages. When I began earning that money, I was tempted to spend it, but my parents instead insisted that I stick the bulk of it in my first bank account. After all, they make a point to save as much of their earnings as they could.

Another important lesson my parents taught me was to never rely on a credit card to take the place of a true emergency fund. Rather, they insisted that, like them, I should have money in the bank for unplanned bills.

Granted, as a 12-year-old whose sole income stemmed from a babysitting gig, I didn't have any expenses at the time. But now, as an adult, I take that advice to heart. And as such, when surprise bills have come my way, I've never had to charge them and carry a balance because of them. Rather, I've made a point to have savings on hand.

Credit cards can be a useful financial tool -- if you utilize them the right way. I'm thankful my parents discussed the ins and outs of credit cards with me when I was younger, because their advice has helped me make smart, money-saving decisions that have served me well through the years.

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