*First National Community Bank’s blog does not constitute legal, tax, accounting, investment or other professional advice. Recipients should consult their professional advisors for advice.
The holidays are right around the corner and the holiday spending comes right along with it. If you’re not using credit responsibly, your credit card balance can affect your budget for months or years – and many more holidays - to come. Moreover, racking up credit card debt isn’t the only risk involved in using credit for the holidays. Running up credit card balances can hurt your credit. Plus, If you’re not careful, using cards during the holiday season can even put your information at risk and leave you open to holiday identity theft. We have outlined 5 key tips for using credit cards responsibly during the holidays:
- Make A Budget – And Stick To It
While this tip may seem obvious, around the holidays, all bets are off once your loved ones see that shiny new, “must have” present. In order to avoid overspending, plan to set a firm budget as to how much you will spend on the holidays this season. Importantly, decide how much you can realistically spend, including using credit for the holidays. This will help reduce impulse shopping as your spending will be planned in advance. It will also help ensure that you are researching the best deals on the items on your list, so you are not spending more than you have to and freeing up money to use on additional gifts while remaining within the budget. Once you create a budget, stick to it regardless of how you’re paying for your holiday expenses.
- Only Use Credit Cards For What You Can Buy In Cash
It is very important not to use your credit card for holiday expenses if you can’t afford to pay for it and/or don’t have the cash reserves on hand to pay it off. This is especially true during the holidays as credit cards provide the option to buy now and pay later, which can lead to holiday splurges on gifts for loved ones. Instead, it is important to concentrate on finding gifts and ways to celebrate that are within your budget. Each time you are out holiday shopping and about to use your credit card, ask yourself whether or not you could afford to buy these items if you were paying cash. The answer can help you keep holiday spending under control.
- Check Your Credit Report BEFORE Holiday Spending
Before you begin your holiday shopping, check your credit score and credit report. By checking your credit, you will have an understanding of how you’ve been using your credit and what might be affecting your scores so you know what to avoid doing this holiday season that can negatively impact your credit. This can also let you know where you stand if you want to apply for additional credit for the holiday season. In addition, knowing where your credit stands now will provide a baseline so if your score goes up or down later, you are more aware, which can also help safeguard you against identity theft as a sudden change in your credit score can be a sign someone is applying for and using accounts in your name.
- Apply For A Credit Card That Offers Rewards And/Or A 0% APR Introductory Offer
If you’re using credit cards for the holidays, check to see if any of your cards offer cash back or rewards points or apply for a credit card that offers these rewards and align your budgeted spending with the credit card rewards. If they do, double-check which categories or stores you can shop in to earn the most points with each card. For example, you can purchase your holiday meal or shop at a certain store to get cash back perks that can lower the cost of holiday spending. In addition cards that offer a 0% Introductory APR can allow you extra time to pay off balances without paying interest on your purchases.
First National Community Bank recently launched a new suite of ‘Business’ and ‘Personal’ credit cards that includes two new credit card types within each -- The Visa Platinum ‘Personal’ Credit Card, a no annual fee credit card that offers 0% APR on purchases for the first 7 billing cycles after account opening and the Visa Platinum Cashback Rewards ‘Personal’ Credit Card, which allows one to earn 1% cash back with no spending limit and no limit on rewards for qualifying purchases with an annual fee. Also introduced are two ‘Business’ Credit Card options. The new credit card offerings complement First National Community Bank’s Personal and Business banking products and services. To learn more about First National Community Bank’s Personal and Business credit cards, visit: https://fncbank.com/Personal-Banking/Personal-Credit-Cards
- Protect Yourself From Fraud & Identity Theft
Always remember to be on guard for holiday scams and theft. Be sure to check your credit card transaction history and statements often to make sure the charges are accurate and are yours. While out shopping, guard your purse and wallet as the threat of pickpocketing increases during the holiday season as shoppers are distracted by the holiday hustle and bustle. In addition, beware of online and telephone scams that ask for your personal information and passwords that can be used for identity theft.
It is important to use credit cards responsibly during the holidays and beyond. Banking with a locally owned community bank is an investment in your community. As YOUR locally owned community bank of choice, the success of your financial future is top of mind. We offer Personal Checking Accounts, Money Market, Personal Savings Accounts, CDs, IRAs, Business Loans, Treasury Management Services, Mortgages, Personal Loans of all shapes and sizes and much more! To learn more about First National Community Bank’s financial solutions, contact us here.
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