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7 Huge Credit Card Lies We Tell Ourselves

Over the past few decades, the almighty credit card has become the default way that the majority of Americans pay for their purchases.  However, with that method of payment comes certain difficulties that you have to be able to manage if you decide that you want to be a user of convenient plastic.


Personally, I think credit cards are not a necessity like so many others do and I teach that in my get out of debt course and on this blog.

But I’ll get to that later.


 It’s Easy to Tell Yourself a Credit Card Lie

However, if you’ve made up your mind that you just have to have a credit card, here are the things that you’ll tell yourself and the mistakes you’ll make when it comes to using those cards that will ensure that you stay in perpetual bondage to your debt, just like those credit card companies want you to do.

  • Credit Card Lie #1- I’ll Get a Cash Advance Just This One Time–  In a tough spot?  Getting a cash advance is a great solution!  Sure, the credit card company charges a fee for that privilege and they’ll raise my interest rate, but I need cash now!  I’ll worry about all that extra stuff later.
  • Credit Card Lie #2- I Hate to Look at My Statement–  What am I some kind of accountant?  Who wants to look over all those numbers?  I don’t totally understand it, and besides, it’s just depressing.  Never mind that I got double charged at that restaurant and some hacker got my info and bought $500 worth of Star Wars memorabilia on Ebay.


“7 Credit Card Lies We Tell Ourselves”- Have you told yourself one of these?


  • Credit Card Lie #3- I Can Afford the Minimum Payments–  I’ll only pay the minimum payment because that will keep me current.  As long as I can afford the minimum everything is ok, right?  Never mind the fact that if I keep paying only the minimum it’ll take me decades to pay it off and I’ll spend about 4 times more than if I had used cash; and that’s only if I quit using the card now.
  • Credit Card Lie #4- I’ll Use a Credit Card to Get Rewards–  I know that airline miles and rebates are just enticements to get me to use the card more, but I’ll game the system and use it to my advantage, because I’m smarter than those people at the credit card company.  Besides, I need a plane ticket for my vacation this summer so I can relax and forget about all of my debt problems!
  • Credit Card Lie #5- I’ll Never Make a Late Payment–  I’ll never put it off because there’s not enough in my bank account to pay the payment.  Anyway, if it’s the end of the month and I’m out of money, I can just pay that payment with my other card that has a later due date.  Problem solved!
  • Credit Card Lie #6- I’ll Never Exceed My Credit Limit–  At least not for a good reason.  Only if I have a real emergency or they’re having a blowout on those awesome shoes I want.  That’s an emergency right?  All those extra fees and an increased interest rate would be sooo worth it to have my feet in those cool shoes.
  • Credit Card Lie #7- I’ll Only Use it For Emergencies–  I’ll keep it handy just in case something happens, only if I absolutely have to use it.  That’s good, until you’re a little short on cash for that thing you really need, whatever it is.  Then you break down and use it “just this one time”.  Yeah, right.


You Need a Plan

Using credit cards to fund your life is usually indicates a lack of planning.  That means making a budget and having a plan to eliminate debt.

I wrote a short, easy to understand book on how to do a budget that works.  You can check it out here.

If you’re ready to change your financial life in a really big way, you can take my online get out of debt course.  You can learn more about that on the course home page.


Time To Tell The Truth About Credit Cards

If you use credit cards long enough, eventually you will probably use one or more of these credit card lies on yourself, digging you deeper and deeper into a pit of debt that keeps you enslaved to the credit card companies perpetually.

I used to tell myself these same credit card lies when I was using plastic to fund my life.  I also made some of these same mistakes, but finally I woke up and realized that using credit, no matter how well you do it, always puts you at a disadvantage and using cash is always the better way to go.

Even if you use credit cards in a way that you never incur a fee and never carry a balance, studies have shown that the transaction is so easy and frictionless that you still end up spending 12% more than if you had just paid cash.

Let’s face it, credit cards are for suckers and they are marketed to us so well that we begin actually believing the lies.  We tell ourselves how “responsible” we’ll be when using them, but when it comes down to it, the most responsible way to use a credit card is not to use one at all (here are some alternate uses).  You shouldn’t have to live paycheck to paycheck and just get by in life!

Question:  Have you ever told yourself any of these credit card lies?  Tell me about it in the comments.

Read More Posts About Credit Cards Here




The 20 Best Ways to Use Your Credit Cards Wisely

Are Minimum Credit Card Payments Really Affordable?

Ready to Get Serious About Getting Out of Debt?

Celebrating Financial Freedom Online Get Out of Debt CourseIf you’re seriously considering changing your financial life by getting out of debt, then you have to check out my free mini-course that will get you started on the right track.  It’s a shorter email version of my popular online get out of debt course.

In this 6 day mini-course, I’ll reveal the steps that my wife Angie and I took to stop struggling with money, get out of debt, and pay cash for things like cars and college tuition!  Best of all, it’s absolutely free!

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  • Pierrette Brousseau

    Like Mike, I use my credit card wisely…I used to be a “slave” to credit cards until 4 years ago. I pay my balance in full 5 days before the due date (or sometimes the day after I make my purchase!), and the only card I use gives me cash rewards which I can use to my advantage (it’s a zero annual fee card). I avoid the temptation to spend more than planned because of the fear of NOT being able to pay the balance in full.

  • Mike

    I have used a credit card for 15 years now and never carried a balance or paid a dime in interest. I collect points which can be redeemed for mortgage principal payments. I reduce my mortgage by about $100 every few months. Paying in cash would have cost me a couple thousand dollars by now. Going down your list, I have never (1) taken a cash advance; (2) ignored my statement (I literally spreadsheet everything!); (3) paid only the minimum; (4) made a late payment (it’s automatically taken from my bank account); (5) exceeded my limit (limit is $25000 more than biggest bill to date); or (6) had any emergency where I needed the card (for emergencies, I have a separate LOC and luckily have never needed it).
    So, I guess I tell myself all your list of “lies” and have stuck with it for a while. I’m going to keep collecting that $100.

    • You are certainly the exception, not the rule. Most people don’t exercise that kind of control. In fact, the majority of credit card users carry a balance from month to month.

      Have you ever found that you tend to spend a little more on average when you use your card? Studies have shown that most people spend an average of 12% more just because they’re using a card. I’d be interested to know if you have observed any difference in amount spent using credit vs. using cash in your own life.

      • Where were these studies done? How were they performed? Could you provide a link to them so that we can see the results for ourselves?

        The reason I’m skeptical about these findings is that when I’m at a store, I usually don’t decide how I’m going to pay until *after* I’ve filled up my basket and gone to the register (unless it’s Aldi, which only takes cash). If I’m only spending a little, I’m more likely to use cash than if I’m buying a lot. So in my case, I use my credit card because I’m spending more, not the other way around. I’d like to see how the studies were performed to see whether the researchers controlled for this factor.

        And while it’s true that the majority of credit card users carry a balance, a sizable minority – about 40 percent – do not. So it’s definitely misleading to say that EVERYONE who has credit cards uses them irresponsibly. (Speaking for myself, I have never taken a cash advance, I have never failed to pay my balance in full and on time, and I have never gotten even remotely close to the limit on any of my cards. And yes, I like the rewards, but not enough to spend money on stuff I don’t need.)

        • I certainly didn’t say that EVERYONE who has a credit card uses it irresponsibly. However, a huge number of people fall into that category. Those are the people I’m talking to.

          Obviously, behavior is a very individualized thing, so what you do or don’t do with credit cards may not translate to another individual. However, studies are geared to show trends in behavior of groups of individuals, so they don’t always capture the nuances of how each individual operates.

          Here are links to some articles that cite and link to studies:





          • Perhaps you didn’t say it in those words, but you certainly implied it by saying, “if you’ve made up your mind that you just have to have a credit card, here are the things that you’ll tell yourself and the mistakes you’ll make.” By saying “You WILL make these mistakes,” you are clearly implying that there are no exceptions.

            Thanks for providing the links, but they’re mostly articles about the studies, not links to the studies themselves, and they don’t cover the methodology used. (I looked for links to the actual studies within the articles, but there were none, at least none that worked.) The link to the MIT study does go into methodology; this test involved a fairly large purchase, a ticket to a sold-out Celtics game. People were willing to spend more for these with credit than with cash–but, significantly, they didn’t know what the actual cash value of the ticket was. When they bid on a gift certificate with a known value, they weren’t willing to pay more with credit than they were with cash. So I wouldn’t cite this study as evidence that people spend more in stores, where they can plainly see the prices, whenever they’re using credit cards.

  • A credit card can be a useful tool when used properly however they are designed to be profitable for the financial institution who issues them. They are relying on data that shows the likelihood to run up credit, carry a balance month to month, pay late fees, annual fees, etc. The majority of consumers aren’t disciplined with credit and our best intentions can lead to debt.

    • Right, people have to realize that even if they intend to always use their credit cards responsibly, in reality they usually don’t. Because of that they end up spending more than they should on extra purchases, fees, interest, and so forth. The credit card companies are literally “banking” on your behavior, they know they will make money on almost everyone who has one of their cards.

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  • I agree that for a great number of people (half? 3/4?) the cards are best off never used. At the other end, the “pay in full” group, using the card(s) as a tracking tool lets you see all your expenses in one bill, and so long as you never spend what you aren’t prepared to pay in cash, running in through the card can provide value. Our main card offers 2% cash back to a 529 college savings account. We have 8 years until our daughter is a senior in college, and are on track for the card to pay for a full semester’s tuition.

    The comment on rewards in your article is fine, if the reward is really going to lead to a rolling balance or higher spending. I’ve been paying in full for over 30 years, and haven’t paid any interest in that time.

    • Joe, I would say that you’re the exception rather than the rule. Most people just aren’t highly disciplined when it comes to credit cards, and because of that, their financial situation is not as good as it could be.

      I believe for most people cash is the better way because it removes that vehicle that causes them to spend more than they would with cash.

      If you can be highly disciplined with a card, then you will do better than most when you use it. But I believe most people would do much better without one.

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