Filed under: Credit Cards
By Dan Rafter
It’s a big temptation: Your pockets are empty, and you desperately need that morning coffee to get through that commute. But don’t do it – don’t take that credit card out of your pocket. If you can’t pay for that latte with cash, skip it and drink from the free coffeepot at work.
It’s easy to pay for purchases with credit cards. Maybe too easy. But there are some items that you should never pay for with a credit card. Why? There are always better ways to pay for these items, whether they are small, everyday purchases or big-ticket buys.
Here are five items for which you should never rely on plastic.
1. Medical Bills
Facing a big medical bill from your doctor? Don’t use your credit card to pay for it. Instead, ask your medical provider to set up an installment payment plan for you. Most medical providers will do this, and the interest rates that they charge (if any) will be lower than the rates attached to your credit card.
2. Income Taxes
If you owe taxes, you do have the option of paying them with your credit card. Again, though, there’s a better choice. If you owe thousands of dollars to the government, contact the IRS and ask for an installment plan.
To be eligible for such a plan, you must owe less than $ 50,000 and be current on your income tax filings. You must also be able to pay what you owe within 72 months.
This isn’t free, of course. The IRS will charge you interest on the money you owe and a late payment penalty, usually at 0.5% a month. But even with these fees, you’re better off financially than you would be if you turned to your credit card to pay your taxes.
3. Unsecure Online Purchases
The new EMV credit cards, embedded with a computer chip, are supposed to make in-person credit card transactions safer. But these cards don’t offer much protection against online credit card fraud. So be careful when you use your card to make online purchases.
And don’t ever use your card on websites that aren’t secured.
Look for “https” at the beginning of a site’s URL in your browser. If that’s not present, and the site starts instead with “http” (with no “s” at the end), don’t buy from it. Such websites aren’t secure, and it’s far easier for criminals to steal your credit card information from them.
4. Big Vacations
We all deserve a break from the working world. An exotic vacation can provide just that. But save the money for it first.
It’s easy to rack up thousands of dollars of credit card debt on a single trip if you charge hotels, gas, meals, and visits to museums and amusement parks. Don’t fall into this trap: If you save for your vacation, and stick to a planned budget while you’re traveling, you’ll feel much more relaxed when you return.
If you don’t, opening that huge credit card bill will make you yearn for yet another vacation.
5. College Tuition
Worried about paying for your college tuition? Join the crowd. But don’t rely on your credit cards to help foot the bill.
The interest rates on student loans are typically lower than those attached to credit cards. Many schools will even charge you an additional fee when you pay your tuition with a credit card.
If you’re worried about paying for your college education, meet with your school’s’ financial aid office. In addition to helping you find low-interest-rate student loans, the staffers there should be able to help you hunt for scholarships or grants that could reduce your tuition burden.
What do you refuse to purchase with a credit card?