Millennials—like any other generation—are wary of a number of things… like cable and sketchy Tinder dates. And, as it turns out, also credit cards.
In fact, a 2016 Bankrate survey found that only 33 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds own a credit card, which is an alarmingly low percentage. As a 24-year-old, I understand why younger adults who are still trying to get a good grasp on their finances are hesitant to really utilize that piece of plastic. After hearing horror stories of how unpaid bills destroyed someone’s credit score and cautionary tales of drowning in debt, how can you blame us?
My younger self was also scared to use that shiny piece of plastic. I felt more secure with my debit card, and had peace of mind knowing I had the funds to back up my (sometimes frivolous) purchases. Credit cards, in my mind, were like a gateway drug. Would I get addicted to spending money I didn’t have? Would I ruin my life by letting unpaid bills stack up? Yeah, I’ll stick to swiping my debit, thank you very much.
But, eventually, my thirst for financial freedom outweighed my fear, and I slowly started using credit cards. I steadily built a solid credit score, used cash-back rewards to pay down my bill every month, and learned how to responsibly use credit cards. Because that’s the thing: You’ll only benefit from the perks provided by credit cards if you pay your bill off on time, every month.
Admittedly, that can be easier said than done. To remind myself to use my credit cards responsibly, I would stick Post-It notes all over my planner, reminding me to pay that dang bill. I would slide my credit card in the back slot of my wallet whenever I went out for a night of drinking to help curb the temptation of spending more money than I had. I would constantly stress over due dates, balances and credit utilization ratios.
However, when it comes to adulting, there are just some things you have to boss up and do. Like figuring out what a 401(k) actually is, scheduling your own doctor’s appointment and eating a vegetable every now and then. I know… ick.
Teaching yourself how to use credit cards responsibly (and why they aren’t as scary as they might sound) is one of those adult lessons they often don’t teach in school. It’ll take a little patience, organization and self-discipline. But once you do figure out a system that works for you, and which credit cards give you the most bang for your buck, your credit score will climb and your savings will skyrocket.
Now with Debitize, credit card beginners have a tool that does all that hard work for them (I swear, Gen Z is so spoiled!). My advice? If you’re a credit card newbie, sign up STAT, and start plotting how you’ll use all those rewards you’re about to rack up from finally paying with plastic.
About Sarah Berger, The Cashlorette
Sarah Berger is the author of The Cashlorette (a Bankrate Inc. company), a personal finance blog for young women. The Cashlorette’s mission is to empower young women to live the life they want, without sacrificing savings or going into debt.