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How Credit Cards Could Nuke Your Finances (But Not in the Way You Think)

Posted on the 24 June 2012 by Cheerfulegg @lioyeo

How Credit Cards Could Nuke Your Finances (But Not in the Way You Think)

I’m back! Sorry for being totally MIA this week – work has been absolutely crazy, which left me almost no time to have lunch, blog, or poo. Yes, I just said “poo” on my blog.

So one of my top reads this week was Ramit Sethi’s Big Wins Manifesto which is a helluva long article but superduper highly recommended (If you’re too lazy to read the whole thing, go knock your head against the wall like 10 times cause you’re an idiot, but the summarized message is that you should be focusing on a few “big wins” that would give a disproportionate effect on your personal finances, rather than many different small “tactics” that could save you a couple of bucks here and there but wont really make a real difference. And wow, that was a long sentence.)

So Ramit talked about his 7 big wins of personal finance, which I simply loved. It’s kind of like an awesome to-do list. I’ve blogged previously on some of ‘em, like 1. Automate your finances and 2. Start investing early, so I figured I’d blog a little bit about what I know about number 3, which is to improve your credit score.

The hidden cost (or benefit) of credit cards

So we all have credit cards, and we all love/hate ‘em. We all know that they give us awesome perks like 1-for-1 drinks (woot woot!) and frequent flyer miles. We also know that they’re a pain in the freakin’ ass cause you have to check your statement every month and trudge to pay ‘em off. (By the way, if you’re still doing that, first shoot yourself in the head, and then read my post on automation) We’ve also all heard the same tired arguments that you should pay ‘em off on time, or we’d get charged a really high interest rate, yadda-yadda.

But did you know that credit cards could potentially cost you tens of thousands of dollars without you ever realizing it?

There’s a hidden cost of not paying your bills on time other than a couple of extra bucks of interest on what you owed last month – every late payment you make affects your credit score, and that has a bigger impact on your finances than you think.

This example from Iwillteachyoutoberich.com says it all: Consider 2 people, one has a great credit score, and one has a poor credit score. Both decide to buy houses which cost $200,000. “Simply by virtue of having different credit scores, the person with poor credit will pay over $68,000 more than the person with excellent credit.” (In Singapore, where houses cost easily 3x that amount, that difference is even larger).

For my Singaporean friends, don’t assume that this applies to Americans only. Credit Bureau Singapore states that paying your bills on time as far as possible is the number 1 way to improve your credit reputation.

Control your nuke

A lot of people don’t realize that credit cards are more than a cool way to pay for stuff – they’re a freakin’ nuclear weapon on your personal finances. Use them well, and you could boost your credit score and save tens of thousands on your house. Use them poorly, and they could erase your entire gains from investing/working your ass off.

So how do you maintain control, and not have them blow up in your face?

The answer: Automate your credit card bills, which will ensure that they’re paid off on-time, every month. How many times have we missed a payment because it was just too much of a hassle to remember to pay it off, not realizing that it could have cost us thousands of dollars in interest? Don’t leave it up to your own “effort” – you’re bound to forget sooner or later. Instead, check your statements when they come, and if there are no mistakes, let the system take care of it for you.

There are other ways to improve your credit rep, which you can read about here, but I won’t go into them for now. First focus on automating your bills, and notice how awesome life is when you don’t have to worry about remembering to pay your bills on-time. You’ll also be able to sleep soundly knowing that you’re quietly building your credit rep in the background and saving tens of thousands of dollars.

PS: anyone had any experience with the effects of credit cards on your housing loan? I’d love to hear from you. Leave a comment or drop me an email at cheerfulegg [at] gmail.com – I read every one

:)


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