Should You Turn to Credit Cards if You Can't Pay the Bills?

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  • Sometimes, it’s difficult to cover bills for everyday expenses.
  • If you have available credit on your credit cards, it may be tempting to use them to afford routine costs.
  • You'll want to explore other options and consider the downsides before using your cards to pay bills. 

Credit cards could cover bills, but you'll need to decide if using them to pay expenses is a good idea. 

If you are struggling to cover everyday expenses, it may be tempting to charge purchases on your credit cards if you have available credit. But while charging things on your cards may solve the problem of affordability in the short term, it could make it more difficult to stay within your budget in the long term.

So, is it ever a good idea to turn to your cards in times of financial trouble? Here's what you need to know.

Why you should try to avoid turning to credit cards to pay the bills

In general, it's a good idea to avoid charging anything on a credit card that you can't repay in full before you start incurring interest charges. Credit cards can be a really expensive way to borrow, with some cards charging interest of upwards of 17%. This means you will make everything you charge on your card much more expensive.

When you charge everyday expenses on a credit card, you'll also be committing future income to covering today's expenses. So, in the future, it will be even harder to live within your means because you'll have less money available due to the fact some of it will be paying for past purchases. 

What are your other options?

While you wouldn't charge everyday expenses on a credit card in an ideal world, sometimes people find themselves in situations that are far from the ideal. If you do not have the money to pay for things you need, you have to find some solution.

Before turning to cards, though, you should consider other options. If you can sell items you don't need anymore or pick up some extra work to cover your costs, this is a better solution. Likewise, looking for cuts you can make so you can avoid borrowing would also be a better option than charging expenses on credit cards. You could also look into government programs that could help you cover costs, such as Medicaid for medical care you can't afford.

But if none of these options are available, credit cards could be a better solution than payday loans which are even more expensive. You might also be better off charging things on credit cards rather than skipping house payments or car payments and facing foreclosure or repossession -- especially if you are facing a short-term cash crunch. 

In other words, if you have no better solution, using credit cards to help you pay for critical expenses may be your best option as long as you recognize that this isn't a long-term solution and you'll need more money later.

When should you use your cards as a fallback? 

If you must use credit cards to charge everyday expenses during difficult times, you should aim to find a 0% APR credit card when possible. A 0% APR card charges no interest on purchases for a limited time so you can avoid owing more money to a card issuer. 

You should also come up with a plan to pay back what you owe ASAP and make sure you don't find yourself in a similar situation in the future.

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