A popular way to avoid credit card debt is to pay with a debit card or cash instead. Debit cards and cash force you to only make a purchase if you have enough cash right now and you never have to worry about missing a due date or carrying a balance. The only issue is that you miss out on two large benefits:
- Building your credit score with on-time payments
- Earning purchase rewards
Thanks to the FinTech community, there are now programs that let you enjoy the best benefits of credit cards and debit cards. You can now effortlessly avoid credit card debt while enjoying credit card perks.
Why Use a Credit Card?
You never know when you’ll need a good credit score in the future, even if you never plan on borrowing money. Your future employer or landlord might require a good credit score to approve your application. Although debit card purchases and cash prevent consumer debt, it’s harder to build your score.
Building good credit might be the best reason to own a rewards credit card that doesn’t charge an annual fee.
How to Avoid Credit Card Debt
You only need to practice these two “secrets” to responsibly use your credit card:
- Pay your monthly balance in full each month before the due date
- Don’t spend more than you do with debit or cash
It can be tempting to think you have more money than you really do when you pay for most of your purchases with a credit card because of high credit limits. You might get approved for a credit card with a $10,000 spending limit even if you only spend $2,000 in a typical month. Instead of giving into the temptation to spend more than you would with cash or debit, stick to your current spending amounts.
If you have to, only put your essential expenses like gas, cell phone, and internet bills on your credit. Continue to use cash to pay for variable expenses like groceries, restaurants, and shopping if you think paying with a credit card will spur an unnecessary spending spree.
Make Regular Credit Card Payments
Maybe everybody you know waits until they get their monthly statement before they begin thinking about making the monthly payment. After all, the payment grace period is 21 days from the statement date until payment is due. If you spend more than you have, you might need to every single day to deposit your next paycheck to pay your bill.
If you don’t want to “live paycheck to paycheck,” you can also make more frequent payments to your credit card and even pay your balance in full before the current statement period ends.
Credit card companies let you schedule one payment each business day.
Before you go to bed each night, add up your total purchases and schedule a payment. You still earn credit card rewards and you’re guaranteed to never carry a balance!
An Easier Way to Make Credit Card Payments and Build Your Credit Score
Let’s be honest! Most of us don’t have the patience or won’t take the time to log into our bank account to transfer money every day. If you do, kudos!
Thankfully, there’s an app that now does the monotonous work of scheduling daily payments so you never carry a balance. These apps are free to use so you can enjoy every credit card rewards point and watch your credit score grow because of your timely payments.
There are two different apps you can choose from to capitalize on this win-win situation that effectively turns your credit card into a debit card without losing any of the credit benefits.
The first app is Debitize which offers a free and premium version. Each day, Debitize withdraws your daily card purchases amount from your linked checking account and puts the funds into a separate Debitize account. On your balance due date, Debitize automatically sends the money to the credit card company and your balance is paid in full.
If you want your credit card to be just like your debit card and to have more frequent payments, you can upgrade to their premium plan which costs $4.99 per month. You might prefer this option if you have a small credit limit and want to keep your credit utilization ratio as low as possible. The Credit Optimizer strives to keep your credit balance below 30%.
At this time, Debitize only offers an iOS app.
A second option is the Debx app which is also free to use. Debx withdraws the cash directly from your checking account and sends it directly to your credit card company so you always have a clean balance.
To prevent overdraft fees, you can also enable the Debx “shutoff feature” which won’t withdraw funds from your bank account below a certain amount. For example, maybe your bank requires a $500 daily balance to waive the monthly service fee. Or, you might like to keep your own buffer balance in your account to hedge against surprise expenses like an unplanned car repair or buying flowers on your anniversary so it doesn’t look like “you forgot.”
Although an Android app is in the works, Debx only offers an iOS app too.
Avoid Overdraft Fees and Overspending with Trim
Although both Debitize and Debx will reimburse any overdraft fees they might cause your checking account to incur, you can also use Trim Financial Manager to send you low account balance alerts and spending alerts so you don’t get any “credit card surprises” that convinced you to stick with cash or debit in the past.
Trim can also analyze your debit and credit card spending to look for unused subscriptions that you probably forgot you were paying.
Using an app like Debitize or Trim is a free way to build credit and earn rewards without the risk of going into debt. Because there are very few rewards debit cards, you’re “leaving money on the table” by using the wrong type of plastic. By linking your credit card to an app that makes daily payments, each purchase becomes more rewarding and you still get to enjoy the peace of mind that comes with debit cards and cash.