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What the Facts Mean

There are lots of statistics floating around out there about credit cards and how much we owe on all our plastic. And the numbers are pretty grim: in 2014, Americans owed $882.6 billion in credit card debt (source).

Ouch.

Before you reach for the Häagen-Dazs to drown your misery, though, consider the basic facts of credit cards

  • Credit cards are handy tools, but like any tool, they can be misused.
  • Credit cards are used by people in all walks of life, including those who aren't super responsible.
  • Credit cards have become so common that some small children aren't used to handling real money anymore.
  • Credit cards are one of the most expensive ways to borrow.

For these reasons and more, the number of people without credit cards is on the rise.

In some cases, they can't get their hands on plastic:

  • They have declared bankruptcy and aren't eligible for a card.
  • They don't make enough money for a credit card.
  • They don't have enough of a credit history.
  • They're undocumented in the U.S.
  • They're under 18 and can't legally have a credit card.
  • They're under 21 and their parents refuse to cosign.

A growing number of Americans just choose to say "no" to credit cards and credit card debt…for lots of reasons.

  • They're trying to simplify their lives.
  • They have an overspending problem and don't want the temptation.
  • They've paid off a big debt and don't want to get into debt again.
  • They don't want to spend more by having plastic (studies show that we spend about 30% more by paying with credit cards than we would have paid if we'd used cash).
  • They don't like environmental impact of credit cards (all that plastic and all that consumerism).
  • They like the smell of money or the feel of hard cash in their mitts.

It's easy to get caught up in all the statistics and numbers, but when making a decision to get a credit card (or not get one), what's important is that you make the right decision for you. That might mean dealing with cash and not getting a credit card at all or it may mean getting a low limit card and paying it off carefully every month.

As long as your plans don't involve crazy spending and getting into tons of credit card debt, we're on board.

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