Hello, Penny Hoarders! I am 21 years old and have never had a credit card. By default, I have no debt. What is your advice to someone who is very conservative with their money, but is also interested in learning more about cash back rewards/point systems attached to certain cards? I like to keep things simple when it comes to my finances, and I think this has been the biggest mental road block for me when it comes to applying for a cc (when my debit is so easy is manage). Let me know your thoughts! 

Original Post

I too was once in the same boat. I had been taught not to get into debt from a very young age. But eventually I gave in to getting a credit card for the sake of building credit.

The only problem is, I really wasn't taught well the correct way to manage my money so although I knew better, I began to use the card frivolously.

Then unforeseen expenses came up and just made matters worse. I am just now getting to the point of having them close to being paid off.

Thankfully I was able to manage my debt fairly well so that I have not been eaten up by interest. I was able to take advantage of some of the rewards offered and was able to open cards and transfer balances so that I haven't been hit too hard.

I definitely would not recommend this approach however.

Having a credit card does help your credit and can be useful in some areas of life. But you always have to keep in mind that the goal of the credit card company is to make money off you so you have to take a very strategic approach.

Taking advantage of rewards can be helpful, especially when making larger purchases such as travel related purchases.

But treat it as just a way to get a discount or deal and instead of using it as a "credit card" think of it as just a debit card to get a discount or deal with. Set up an automatic payment right away to pay off the full balance as soon as the purchase lands on your report.

If you don't have any credit, I recommend starting with trying to get a store credit card as they are more likely to approve you for that first. (My first was Kohls)

The next best option would be to get a card with your local bank that you do your banking at.

When you start getting a bunch of credit card offers in the mail, that is when you have to be on high alert.

They will be tempting, but proceed with caution and only make an informed and well planned decision for the cards you choose.

I was totally irresponsible when it came to my first credit card. I opened one solely to get a brand new laptop, knowing I wouldn't be able to pay it off immediately. This lead to thousands of dollars in credit debt, a low credit score and just an overwhelming feeling that I won't catch up. 

BUT IT GOT BETTER.

A few things I learned: 

- Live within (or below) your means. Budget what you spend on the card and pay it off at the end of the month. I pay it off every pay period to keep myself accountable.

- Find a card with no annual fee. There are plenty of cards that offer this so don't settle. A $20 membership charge is no fun to pay.

- Figure out how you want to use it. Do you travel? Do you eat out alot? Check the cards and see which best fits your lifestyle! 

Hope that helps! 

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