How to Build a Better Relationship with Your Credit Cards

Money Files

If your story is similar to my own, you might have opened your first credit card with the intention of building your credit. But, years later, your credit line increased and the way you use your card changed, perhaps without you even noticing. Instead of using your credit cards as a tool to boost your financial health or to earn cash back and rewards, now it’s just an easy way to make purchases and pay them back later. Or maybe not, if the balances are getting away from you. 

But, it’s not really an issue with credit cards, is it? Credit cards can be great financial tool as long as we’re using them in a financially mature way, which means understanding their benefits and costs and establishing better credit card practices that allow you to be intentional about how you spend your money.

In today’s episode, I’m talking about the importance of identifying your intentions with your credit card use and understanding how you’re actually spending money when you use your card. I’m also sharing three tips that will help you be more intentional about how you use your credit cards. 

Whether you’re someone who is paying down debt or someone who pays their monthly balance in full, building a better relationship with your credit cards will build awareness of your spending as well as help you get out (and stay out) of debt.

In this episode, you’ll learn…

  • How credit card debt sneaks up on you if you don’t have a handle on your money [04:52]
  • Why you need to identify the role credit plays in your life [08:23]
  • Why it’s important to check whether your credit card is still serving you [09:39]
  • How to define the type of relationship you want to have with credit [10:54]
  • How knowing the interest rates and fees on your credit cards can help you avoid hidden costs [12:41]
  • Why you should know and establish your payoff plan (even if you don’t hold a credit card balance) [16:42]
  • How paying off your credit card weekly will help you stay in control of your budget [19:55]

Tune in to this episode to learn how to use your credit cards with intention and stay confident in the way you manage your money.

In the episode…

When was the last time you asked yourself “What is the role of my credit card in my life?” Credit cards aren’t inherently good or bad, but not using credit intentionally can easily turn into unnecessary expenses or unwanted debt. Credit card limits get raised, sometimes without you even realizing it. Interest rates are variable, and if you don’t know yours, then you don’t know the full costs of your credit card usage. And not knowing how much you’re spending week to week and month to month adversely affects how you use your credit card. 

I don’t want you to cut up all your cards right now, but I do want you to rethink how you’re using your cards and ask yourself some thoughtful questions to reframe your relationship with them.

What kind of relationship do you want to have with credit? If you put all of your regular monthly expenses on your credit card, you need to know what that total is so that you know your balance. This will help you keep track of your budget and stay empowered in the way you use your money. Paying your card off weekly instead of monthly can help you keep on top of your budget before it’s too late to adjust. 

If you use your cards for rewards or cash back, are you really getting a benefit from that? If you’re not paying your card off each month, you’re probably spending more than you’re receiving in benefits. And if you’re in credit card debt, it might be time to stop using that card for now. You don’t want credit cards to become a burden that cuts into your goals and desires.

How are you really using your credit cards? Take a little time to reflect on the way you actually spend money on your cards, not the way you intend to use them or the way you wish you used them. Think about the role they truly play in your life, and ask yourself if that’s serving the financial goals you have set for yourself. I don’t want you to have stress at the end of the month because you don’t know how much you spent and your credit card balance is creeping upward, and reflecting on your credit cards can help you take back some of that financial control.

Follow these tips to take control of your credit cards and know the role that they play in your spending:

Tip #1: Know the interest rates on your credit cards.

This is an important piece that people don’t always pay attention to. From stores like Target to big banks to credit unions, interest rates vary. You may have gotten a 0% intro when you first opened the card, but that is a temporary rate. If your interest rate is now 22%, your $1,000 balance is actually costing you more. Knowing this information helps you to spend more intentionally and understand how much of a balance you’re actually carrying.

Tip #2: Know how to use your credit cards.

Understand the assumptions that you make about how you use your credit cards and how closely they are aligned to your reality. If you tell yourself you can pay it off each month or that the benefits are worth it or that you’re going to pay it off in full during the 0% intro period … Does this self-talk match your actual spending? Be honest with yourself about how you’re actually using your credit cards vs. your assumptions about how you want to be using them.

Tip #3: Know your payoff plan.

Know how you plan to pay off your debt. If you’re making payments and still charging things on your credit cards and not following your budget, you’re going to stay stuck in a rut of not knowing how to deal with your credit cards. 

If you’re in debt and want to pay off your credit cards, consider stopping using your credit cards temporarily. This allows you to see exactly where your money is going on your debit card and to see your credit card balances go down.

If you’re in a position to pay off your balance every month, I want you to try paying your balance weekly. This allows you to better track your spending and make sure that credit card debt doesn’t creep up on you.

Reflection: Establish the type of relationship you want to have with your credit.

Decide what kind of relationship you want to have with credit. Do you actually need your credit cards or are you just holding on to them because you’ve heard it’s smart to have multiple credit cards? Do the benefits outweigh the costs? Credit cards are a convenience, and it’s easy to miss the potential drawbacks. Consider your interest rate, your ability (or inability) to pay it off each month, and your budget. Set specific intentions for the role that credit plays in your life. 

Here are the takeaways that I want you to remember about your relationship with credit cards from this episode:

  • It’s important to be really aware of how you use your credit cards currently and the role you want them to play in your finances
  • Knowing your interest rates helps you understand the true cost of your debt
  • Fully understanding your payoff plan involves not only interest rates but also whether you’re currently spending on your credit card
  • With knowledge and reflection, you can build a better relationship with your credit cards

Are you ready to redefine your relationship with credit cards? Apply to work with me, and let’s change your relationship with money.

Transcript for “How to Build a Better Relationship with Your Credit Cards”:

Hi and welcome to Money Files. I’m Keina Newell from Wealth Over Now. I work every day with professional women and solopreneurs to help them get out of financial overwhelm and shame so they can experience more flexibility and ease with their finances. Are you ready to gain confidence and learn to manage your finances intentionally? Tune in and grab financial tips that will help you master the way you think about and manage your finances. 

Hello and welcome back to another episode of Money Files. I am excited to chat with you today. Before we get started, I do want to let you know now I want you to mark your calendars because I want to see your face and I want to help you with your relationship with money. But on September 9th, at 11 a.m. Eastern time, I am going to be hosting Mimosas and Money Matters. Mimosas and Money Matters is a live group coaching call that I’ve done for the last several years, and it’s really an opportunity for you to build your community around finances. You are probably in a position where you don’t want to talk about your finances or you’re thinking about like, Where do I start? And I created this community because I want you to know that talking about money doesn’t have to be taboo. It doesn’t have to look like talking about how much money you’re in or how much debt you have, that you also have money skills that you can talk about and you have things that you can celebrate. 

So I want to take the overwhelm and shame and guilt out of finances. And I really want to help you position yourself to be in a place to get started and really start shifting how you think about money and help you shift your relationship with money. Because when you gain financial peace of mind, it will change everything for you. And I watch it day to day with my clients and I think it’s one of the most amazing gifts that they give themselves. And I want to help you give that gift to yourself. So on this call, you can come in and you can listen, you can come in and be coached. It’s really whatever you desire. But regardless of if you raise your hand to be coached or if you decide to just listen in, you’re going to gain something that’s going to help you shift your relationship with money and just helping you build a community where you’re like, That’s a healthy community. For me to be able to talk about finances and it’s helping me release the overwhelm that I experience when I think about my own finances. 

So, Mimosas and Money Matters. It’s an hour call. I would say it’s the most amazing hour of your week because money is probably the thing that’s keeping you up at night. And it’s also what I call that financial hum that it’s been humming so much in your life that you don’t know what life feels like without that hum. And I can tell you that when you don’t have that financial hum in your life where you’re constantly thinking about, do you have enough? Or what’s going to happen, you know, next week, next month, I’m not sure. But when that is out of your life, you’re going to have so much freedom to look at everything else around you, to show up in partnerships, to show up at your job, to show up for yourself. So go to the link in the show notes and you can sign up for Mimosas and Money Matters, you’ll see the date for September as well as the rest of the year. But hey, show up every month. My clients even show up and just use that as another opportunity to work on shifting their thoughts around money as well. So I look forward to seeing you there. 

And today we are going to talk about your relationship with credit cards. I had a client last week or maybe it’s like two weeks ago. And one of the things I do with my clients is I ask them to do a session check in with me, and they use that opportunity to pause and reflect on what wins have I had or how can Keina continue to support me? Or what’s something that’s really top of mind that I’m like wanting to be more aware about? And so my client had mentioned that their credit cards were their balances were creeping up and they feel like they’re not able to pay them off each month. And so you may resonate with that and maybe you also I think the other common thing that I see here is just thinking about I want to use credit cards to pay my monthly expenses because I get cash back or I get points. Right. And whether it is the creeping up of credit cards or deciding like, can I use a credit card to gain cash back or points? This podcast episode is going to be useful for you I’m going to give you some things to think about. 

So I just want to tell you a personal story about credit cards. I got a credit card. I can’t remember if it was my senior year of high school. I think I tried to do everything when I turned 18 that my parents wouldn’t allow me to do and. I can’t remember if you have to be 18 to get a credit card or not. I probably should know that and I don’t remember. But I got a credit card and I got it with a local credit union. And I remember that my first credit card limit was $500. And I got the credit card because in my household we did talk about money. I knew that like you were supposed to have a budget and I knew that you were supposed to pay your credit card off. 

And so I got a credit card because I wanted to build my credit. And I heard that was something, you know, that you needed to have. And at that time, with that $500 limit. It was something very easy for me to use and pay off. I also felt very rich with $500 limit and then slowly the limit moved to like $1,000. And it’s gone higher than that over the years. And as my like number of years that I’ve been with, that specific credit card holder has increased. But I don’t remember the complete shift. But I know that I went from a mindset of I’m building my credit. So like at 18 or 19 to it being that my credit card was this thing that I’ll pay off and it was lifestyle creep and unwanted debt that entered my life, especially as that credit card limit increased. And I started to see like, Oh, I can just put this on my credit card and then I can pay it off. Or it became like not to. You couldn’t pay it off at certain times and then ended up like having a balance month after month or whatever that may look like for myself. 

And I was just thinking about this as I was preparing for this episode is that I don’t believe that credit cards are inherently like bad or even that debt is inherently bad because if you think about it like there are wealthy people that use debt all the time, I think the thing that we’re unwilling to do is have unnecessary conversations with ourselves about how we want to spend money or how we want to use a credit card. So we give lip service to a thought, like, I’ll just use this for points, but then we ignore the other pieces of our financial health and we’re not asking ourselves like, am I financially mature to use the card in this way? Because when you decide that you want to use it for points, it’s like, Well, do you know where your money goes or do you know when you lay that credit card down or the use of the credit card? 

Because you probably can resonate with the fact of, oh yeah, I was like using it to build my credit or I just got it for this one circumstance. And then at some point in time your credit cards have increased and you don’t really know how you got into this situation. Right. And for some of us, we’re in this cycle over and over and over again. So it requires that we look at our relationship with credit cards. Like like I said, I don’t think that credit cards are inherently bad. I don’t think that debt is inherently bad. But it’s being real and it’s being honest to say, am I financially mature to use my card in this way? 

And when I’m working with clients, our conversations about credit cards, it’s not about their credit cards being good or bad, but instead looking at the role of credit cards in their life. So I will ask them, what are your intentions with this credit card? And generally speaking, people have more than one credit card. They acquire more than one credit card by way of back in the day being at Victoria’s Secret. And they tell you, oh, you can get 10% off here or you get a $200 statement credit. Right. And so you acquire new credit cards because of a promise. So just thinking about for yourself. What’s the intention of the cards that are currently in my life? I ask my clients to think about like, What do you find yourself putting on your credit card? So if you said that you’re someone who. Wants to use it for points. Right. But like, what are you actually putting on your credit card from week to week? Maybe you’re using gas. You know, you’re dining out. If you needed to buy a plane ticket, you would put that on there. But just really thinking about like, what am I putting on my credit card and am I using different cards for different things? Is a great just question to think about and reflect on for yourself. 

And then also just thinking about like, is this card still serving me because you can have credit cards in your life that do you actually need them or are you just holding on to them because you heard that it was a good thing to have multiple credit cards, right? Or I’m doing this to keep lines of credit cards open or lines of credit excuse me, open because I want to make sure that my credit score is X, Y, Z. So you’re like aligning your credit card usage with also something that you believe to be true about a credit score. But it’s just taking the time to stop and reflect and asking yourself. What is the role of credit in my life? What I find is that credit cards provide ease and convenience for a lot of us. But we’re blindsided by the freedom that we believe they provide. 

So we foster this belief as well, that if we budget we’ll be restricted. And then inevitably you create this lifestyle for yourselves because you’re in situations where you can’t actually afford to pay off the credit card each month, or when you look back at your overall credit card debt, you feel suffocated. Even though you got the credit card for ease. Right. And so when I’m thinking about how do you shift from this place, it’s really going back to let me establish the type of relationship I want with credit. Because you don’t want to be controlled by something that you think like I want you to actually know the thought that you have because you might be thinking, Oh, I’m using this card for for points or I’m using it for cash back. 

But at the end of the day, at what cost to you is it to get the points or get the cash back? Like if you have to spend $10,000 to get $100 cash back? But that really looks like you paying $100 of interest each month. Like, are you actually getting the benefit that you think that you’re getting? Right. But you’re you’re committed to it because you like the appeal of the fact that it says you have $100 cash back reward, that you can cash in. But it’s once again looking at the interest, looking at all these other pieces, especially when you don’t have the financial maturity required to pay that credit card off each month. Is that something that you actually want to be doing right now? And so that takes, you know, a hard conversation with yourself to say, like, let me actually set my intentions. Let me think about the purpose of credit in my life. 

So before you establish this relationship with yourself, I want to back up too because I feel like we may not all have the same kind of understanding of credit cards or pay attention to the same things because we got the credit card for the free t-shirt back in college. Remember all of the like, little fairs they had. And you got or maybe you got a free water bottle or keychain. Who knows? But the first thing I want you to do, especially when you’re establishing the type of relationship you want with your credit cards, is I want you to know the interest rates on your credit cards. And this may sound very basic, but it’s a fundamental thing that I don’t think we pay attention to. And you may have a store credit card. So when I’m talking about a store credit card, maybe you have Home Depot, maybe you have Lowe’s, maybe you have a Target card, whatever it is. But generally speaking, store credit cards have higher interest rates. 

And I find that people get the store credit cards because it may have been a 0% intro or, you know, they were persuaded because they would get 10% off whatever that looks like. But actually identify with your store credit cards. What’s the interest rate? You could be at an interest rate that’s variable. It’s probably somewhere like mid-teens. So anywhere from like 15 to maybe 25% on your credit cards. So you just want to know, like, what’s the actual interest rate? Because knowing that interest rate, it’s also going to inform you if I hold a balance on this card, what does that mean? Like, how much money am I paying for every single dollar that I borrow or I can’t pay back? 

And then also like, look at your bank credit cards. So when I think about banks, I can think about Chase, Capital One, Bank of America, Wells Fargo. Look at those credit cards as well. And look at the interest rate. See what your interest rates on those cards are. Sometimes they can also be similar to the store credit cards, but they are generally higher. And then if you have credit cards that are with a credit union, I find, generally speaking, that the credit cards from a credit union are generally lower and you may have an interest rate like six, seven, 8% just depending on your credit or the offer that they have. 

So knowing that interest rates can be really beneficial if you ever do need to hold a balance on your card. It’s also really beneficial if you’re in a position where you’re looking at paying off debt and you want to make a strategy based off of your balances and your interest rates. So be informed. Know the interest rates on all of your credit cards. 

The next step I want you to take is to know how you use credit cards. So I would underscore this with like be clear on your own self-talk. Like, do you make assumptions about how you’re going to use your credit card? And so I think this sounds like, oh yeah, I can get this because it’ll be 0%, so I can just make a plan to pay for it. Right? Or maybe you’re wanting to open up another credit card for balance transfer or like an intro offer because they’re giving that 0%. Another assumption you may make and going into your self-talk is like, I can pay this off every month or the benefits for this card are worth it. 

But really going and thinking about what’s that self-talk that I have with myself when I’m thinking about how I use my credit cards, because that is going to ultimately shape the relationship you have with credit. And so. It goes back to this piece that I talked about earlier. I want us to be honest. And in order to be honest with ourselves, we have to know how we’re using credit cards and what assumptions we’re making. I think something that goes in here that I’m literally just thinking about now is that some credit cards that we sign up for also have these annual fees. They could be anywhere from $30 to hundreds of dollars. And so, once again, we’re probably making some type of assumption like, oh, yeah, this benefit is worth it. But know the cost of the benefit. And so it takes sitting down, looking at your numbers, sitting down and looking at like, what is it actually costing me to take advantage of these benefits? Right. 

And lastly, when you’re thinking about your relationship with credit cards, I want you to know your payoff plan. So when I’m thinking about the payoff plan, I’m thinking about it in two different ways here and thinking about if you are in a position right now where you’re in debt and you are wanting to pay off your credit cards, then you might be like my clients and generally my clients, they might stop using their credit cards, even if it’s just for a little while while they’re working on paying off debt. And the reason that this generally happens is because we have cleaned up their budget. We’re very clear on how much they can spend on certain things. They are clear on what they value, what their goals are, and how they want to spend their money month a month. And so they’re going to pay for things usually from like a spending account that’s tied to a debit card. 

But what this helps is for them to understand and gain more awareness about their day to day and week to week spending habits. And then also, because we’ve looked at their spending plan and their thinking about how they want to pay off debt, they’re also going to get a dopamine hit from the fact that their credit card balance is decreasing. The common thing that I see when people are paying off their debt is that they’re also charging things on their credit card while they’re also telling me like, but I’m making these big payments to their credit card. But if you’re not actually if you don’t have a budget, usually those things don’t talk to one another. So, yes, you’re making payments, but you’re also still charging things on the credit card. So you feel like you’re in the same place and you’re stagnant. 

So I would suggest to you for your credit card, if you’re in a place in your life where you’re looking at paying off debt to know how you actually want to pay off debt. And maybe it means for right now, I’m going to use my debit card and I’m actually going to put money towards my credit cards to actually see the balance go down. So my interest that from month to month is actually decreasing and that can be beneficial as well as help you see where you may be overspending and the thing that might be getting you back into that that debt cycle. 

And then if you’re someone who is a lover of benefits and you’re like, Keina, I don’t need to pay off debt. I’m I’m really good at what I do in terms of how I use my credit card. I would still tell you to be knowledgeable, have a plan for how you want to actually pay off your credit card from month to month. Because what’s also real is that we can have some type of like lifestyle creep. And what I see in this category is people that are like, well, you know, I can pay my balance off every single month, but sometimes there’s months where like you don’t get to save money because it had to go towards your credit card balance. But it wasn’t something that you were intentional about. It was just something that happened to you. 

So if you are someone who charges everything to your credit card and you love the benefits of that, I want you to feel comfortable with what you’re putting on your credit card day to day. And I would suggest to you that you pay off your credit card from week to week, and you are probably like, but why? Because it helps you have real time feedback on your spending habits and it helps you be proactive with your finances like I do this with clients we’ll be a couple of weeks into working together and it helps them see like, let’s say, for example, they told me that they wanted to spend $800 a month on groceries and dining out, right? Like that’s the number that they’re going with and that’s where they’re starting. 

And then let’s say we were looking at their numbers and we notice that in the first week they spend $200 on groceries and they spend $300 that week on dining out. They’ve been to GrubHub, they went to brunch, whatever that looks like, if we wait until the end of the month to actually pay off their credit card because they just tell me like they can pay off their credit card, we would miss the fact that they’ve already spent $500 of the $800 allowance that they said that they wanted to spend on dining out and food. So if they continued with that same pattern for the rest of the month, like so let’s say they were spending $500 a month. Well, now they’ve overspent and they would have spent $2,000 versus the $800 that they said they wanted to spend. 

And like I said, they may not catch the fact that they their spending isn’t really in alignment with what they said they wanted to spend. So by paying off their credit card each week and actually looking at what’s happening and what they’re putting on their credit card, this gives them the opportunity to actually understand how they’re spending money. It helps them evaluate their spending habits. They can look for flexibility in their budget to say, you know, is this a normal week or is this maybe a one off week? Like, how do we want to adjust when we are looking at the additional three weeks that we have ahead of us in the month? And so it helps them not be blindsided by whatever their credit card balance would be two, three weeks from now by just making it a habit of paying off their credit card every single week and it, they’re just learning about themselves. 

It’s really bringing in financial awareness, and it’s also highlighting financial control for them because they get to decide how they want to spend their money. And for me as a coach, I’m sharing with them a tool that they’ll always have, which is to be able to make sure, okay, I’m evaluating and I’m adjusting. So I know that my budget is this working document that I can use as a tool to make financial decisions, because that’s what a budget is. It is a tool for you to make intentional financial decisions. So you are able to live a life that feels easy to live a life that provides you ease and that you’re not stressed out at the end of the month because you actually know how you’re spending your money. 

So in today’s episode, there are three big takeaways that I want you to have, especially just when you’re thinking about your relationship with credit cards. Know the interest rates on your credit cards. It might sound very elementary, but just go and take a look. Some of you might have variable interest rates. And with our economy right now, they have probably shifted. So take a look. Look at the bottom of your statement and look at what that interest rate is. 

Number two know how you use your credit cards. Actually take the time to think about what’s the self-talk that I have when I’m using my credit cards or why I got this specific card so that you can just be clear on where you may be making some assumptions for yourself that you don’t actually desire to keep. 

And then lastly, know your payoff plan. So whether you’re in the bucket of like, you know, I’m paying off a balance transfer, I’m on this debt payoff plan or, you know, I love the benefits that I get with this credit card, I’m going to pay it off every month. Just have a plan for how you actually want to pay off your credit card. If you have been following me, I offer a spending plan and in that spending plan, you can be really clear on how much you want to spend on the day to day things in your life. And so if you know, after you’ve put all your expenses in, that your day to day spending, if you’re looking at gas and groceries, some of the main things that people put on credit cards, add those things up and see, oh, that adds up to $1,000 a month. So my credit card balance really shouldn’t be over $1,000. And then if you’re using that tip that I gave about paying it off weekly, you can see, how am I doing? When I think about the fact that I only want to be spending $1,000 on these day to day monthly expenses that I’m putting on my credit card. All right. 

So I hope that you found something in today’s conversation that was useful and beneficial to you and to help you shift your relationship with your credit cards, but also ultimately shifting your relationship with money. And if you are ready to gain peace of mind with your finances, I would invite you to apply to work with me in my five month coaching partnership. In that five month coaching partnership, I am working with clients to help them shift their overall thoughts about money and moving them through learning how to actually master their finances, but then also moving to a place where they learn how to maintain their finances. So managing your finances well is just something that you do and something that you don’t even have to think about. You actually will find joy in knowing your number. So if you would like to work with me, go to www.wealthovernow.com/appointment and I look forward to hearing from you. All right. Have a great day. 

Thank you so much for listening to Money Files. If you’re ready to take the next step to reach your financial goals, head to www.wealthovernow.com/appointment and let’s get started. 

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