There are many reasons you may have avoided getting a credit card up until now. Maybe you prefer to pay for purchases with cash, or maybe the thought of choosing a credit card seems overwhelming. Maybe you just don’t feel it’s worth the effort. But perhaps all the buzz about the rewards the come from paying with plastic got you considering if now’s the time to get that card. Or maybe something else prompted you to start thinking about it. Either way, there are real benefits to having a credit card in your wallet — nine of which we’re about to highlight.
But first, a quick note: You’ll want to think carefully before you sign up for any credit card, as it’s important to know if your budget can handle those credit card payments that ultimately arrive. You’ll also want to read all the fine print of any cards you’re considering to make sure you understand what responsibilities come along with carrying (and using) that card.
1. Preparing for Emergencies
Even if you already have a savings fund for emergencies, you may not be able to access those funds when you really need them. A prime example is a roadside breakdown. Unless you carry hundreds of dollars in your wallet (not usually advisable), you may not be able to pay for a tow truck or auto repair. In times of emergency, a credit card can help you pay.
2. Paying Off an Urgent Expense Interest-Free
If you need to make a home repair or replace an essential appliance, you may not have the necessary funds at your disposal. When you have an urgent expense that you can’t cover with cash, a credit card with an introductory 0% annual percentage rate offer can help. These credit cards give you time to pay off purchases or balance transfers interest-free. Just make sure you use this wisely, as once that introductory offer expires, you’ll be tacking interest payments on any outstanding balance you have. (You can read more about APRs here.)
3. Building Credit
If you have poor credit or no credit history at all, a credit card is a great way to build stronger credit, which can pay off in the long run as you make important financial decisions. If you’re not sure where to get started, you might try a secured credit card. Not sure where your credit is at or what’s happening with it over time? No problem. You can track how your credit card usage affects your finances with a free credit report snapshot on Credit.com.
4. To Get Approved for Future Applications
In most cases, you need strong credit to prepare for future opportunities. If you want to apply for a mortgage, an auto loan or a rental application, having strong credit can help you get approved. Having good credit can also affect the interest rates you pay and other monthly bills.
If you pay for everything with cash or debit, you won’t be able to build your credit as quickly, and you could be denied for applications or pay more in interest.
5. Earning Cash Back
Many credit cards offer cash back rewards, putting money back in your pocket every time you pay. With cards offering special cash back rates on groceries, gas, department stores and other categories, there’s a good chance you can find a cash back card that rewards the way you spend.
6. Earning Travel Rewards
Other credit cards offer travel rewards that can help you get to your next destination. As you spend, travel cards earn points or miles that can be redeemed for expenses including airfare, car rentals and hotel stays. Some cards even offer large signup bonuses, preferred status at airlines or hotels and other travel perks.
You can also travel with peace of mind, as these cards often provide travel protections including car rental insurance, lost luggage reimbursement and even trip cancellation insurance.
7. Protecting Yourself Against Theft
If you carry a wallet full of cash everywhere you go, you’re out of luck if it gets lost or stolen. With credit cards, you’re only liable for up to $50 in unauthorized charges if they occur before your card is reported stolen. Many credit card companies won’t even charge you that $50.
8. For Purchase Protection
Credit card companies often offer purchase protection policies that back up your purchases. These policies may include extended warranties and protection against stolen or damaged goods. Some companies even offer price protection, which will reimburse you the difference if you can find a lower price for a purchase within a certain time frame.
9. For Convenience
Carrying cash is a pain. Credit cards are lightweight, easy to swipe, accepted at most merchants and are largely worry-free.