Considering all the debt disasters young people witnessed and read about during the financial crisis, it’s unsurprising that credit cards aren’t a popular financial product among today’s 20- and 30-somethings. Several surveys of millennials have found that consumers that age are often debt-averse and favor other forms of payments over credit cards.
As someone who falls into that age group, I know a lot of people who meet that description. One of them recent sent me a text asking if he should change his approach:
“I’m 27 years old. I never had a credit card. Do I need one?”
Most people don’t need credit cards. You can function just fine in society without a credit card (some would argue you’re better off without one), and they’re not the only means to establishing a good credit score. But they can be incredibly helpful.
Whether or not someone in this situation should get a credit card depends on a lot more than their age. If you’re having similar thoughts and are wondering if you should apply for a credit card, here are some questions you need to ask yourself first.
1. Do I Have Any Credit?
One of the biggest reasons to get a credit card is to help you build credit. Without credit, getting an auto loan can be extremely difficult, and getting a home loan is pretty much impossible. It’s very common for young people to start building a credit history when they take out student loans or get an auto loan with the help of a co-signer, but if you don’t have any credit history, you need to start somewhere.
People who need to start building credit or rehabilitate bad credit often choose to get a secured credit card as a way to establish good credit behavior, because secured cards, which require you to put down a deposit that serves as your credit line, are generally easy to get. Once you have the card, you’ll want to keep your card balance as low as possible and always make payments on time.
If you already have a credit history, you can still benefit from getting a credit card, because having a variety of credit can also improve your credit score. Using a revolving credit line can add depth to a credit file with a student loan in it, and if you pay off the credit card balance each billing cycle, you’ll be building credit without incurring debt.
2. Do I Have Any Savings?
Credit cards also serve as a good emergency tool. Ideally, you have an emergency fund to cover your expenses in the event of a sudden income change or major, unexpected car repair, but if you don’t, a credit card can help you make ends meet in a pinch. In that case, you’d want to use a credit card with a low interest rate and immediately make a plan to pay off the balance as soon as possible. Credit card debt can quickly get out of control and end up taking years to repay, if you’re not careful.
3. Can I Handle a Credit Card?
Having a credit card requires a lot of self-control and some organizational skills so you don’t spend beyond your means (and end up in debt) or miss payments (and end up with credit damage). If you decide to get a credit card, take the responsibility seriously. Keep track of your transactions, set bill-pay reminders or automatic payments to make sure you don’t miss your due date and keep an eye on your credit scores to see how your credit card use affects your credit standing. You can get two credit scores for free on Credit.com every month to track your progress as you build a good credit score.
More on Credit Cards:
- Credit.com’s Expert Credit Card Shopping Tips
- How to Get a Credit Card With Bad Credit
- How Secured Cards Can Help Build Credit