In a recent article, financial expert Renaud Laplanche shared the story of a woman who works the night shift at a hospital in Chicago. She gets home just after 6:00 a.m., takes a shower, and then gets her two kids up. She makes them breakfast, asks if they have finished their homework, and then sends them off to catch their 7:35 a.m. bus to school.
She won’t see her children again until the next morning when this routine is repeated. She spends four hours a day driving for Uber, completes errands, stores dinner in the refrigerator, writes her children some sticky notes, and then sleeps for a few hours before starting her shift at the hospital.
Her car broke down three years ago, which cost $5,600. She decided to charge it on a zero interest credit card, but since she didn’t pay it in full the rate jumped to 29.999%. This started a cycle of debt that she is still trying to crawl out of, Renaud Laplanche stated. To help others, he wrote an article about handling credit card debt responsibly so what happened to her doesn’t happen to others.
The average American family has $8,398 in credit card debt. This situation is getting worse, not better. Renaud Laplanche says the problem is most people don’t realise the situation they’re getting themselves into until it’s too late. He wrote that low monthly minimum payments are designed to trap people in debt for as long as possible.
High rates are another problem. Even someone with excellent credit has a credit card interest rate of 16.9%. Someone with fair credit pays 21.45% on average, while those with bad credit pay 24.5%. Store credit cards charge even more interest. Combined with low minimum payments, high interest rates mean a person is spending much more in interest than they are paying off in principle.
Credit card companies charge high fees. There are many fees including annual fees, balance transfer fees, late fees, and cash advance fees. Credit card companies make $57.4 billion a year from fees. Renaud Laplanche wrote if you’re paying more than 20% in interest, you’re likely paying just as much money in fees.
Credit card companies offer the wrong incentives. Credit card users are incentivized to spend more money as they get rewards for doing so. The more you buy things you don’t need with a credit card, the more cash, points and miles you get back. There aren’t rewards for using a debit card, which explains what’s really going on. Credit card companies don’t want you to use a credit card just for daily expenses. They want you to make large purchases so they rack in money from you.
Opening credit cards drags down your credit score. This results in a “hard inquiry” on your credit report, often bringing your score down by 10 to 20 points. You can recover quickly from a hard inquiry, but not from a high utilization ratio. If you owe a lot compared to how much credit you have available, your score will likely drop another 30 to 40 points.