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Careful Credit: Using a credit card is fine, as long as the purchase makes sense

If you’re one of those careful shoppers and utterly pensive and prudent spenders, you realize that credit cards are a last resort.

They’re not meant for every day shopping, nor should they be whipped out for clothes, shoes, large-scale purchases or anything else that you can simply use cash to buy. You understand that credit cards are emergency funds only, such as a roof leaking or a major car repair that might wipe out whatever money you might have saved.

Somewhere between never using credit cards and using them all the time is a happy medium. They’re not quite as bad as some make them out to be, but then again you shouldn’t be using them to pay bills or go grocery shopping, or even if you’re intent on taking a trip and don’t have the funds to do so on your own.

So when exactly is the right time to use a credit card, keeping in mind that your financial future rests on that credit score, debt to income ratio and how consistently you’re paying off your bills? While no answer is technically right or wrong, it truthfully depends on the person using the cards.

Some use credit cards frequently, for promotional reasons or points mostly, and end up getting various discounts as part of swiping that card. What they do after the fact, however, makes or breaks their credit path. The smart ones typically pay off the balance in full, so as to reap the reward portion and then walk away unscathed essentially.

Purchases that don’t match up well with credit cards seem to be obvious. You should never charge certain items or events on credit cards, no matter how easy it seems to be. Your picture perfect wedding is a cash business, plain and simple. Sure, you can maybe use credit cards for last minute expenses, such as when the DJ at the wedding tells you that he needs $200 for the next hour since he’s ready to pack up and leave.

Anything related to vacations or medical expenses, no matter how vast and different they are or how large the sums, should never find their way on to a credit card statement. Medical bills can be negotiated to a monthly, interest free payment and vacations are luxury items that we all can’t afford and shouldn’t force the issue financially.

But we tend to do that with credit cards, but have to remind ourselves that not all plastic purchases are created equally.

Previous: How to pay off your credit card debt the right way

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