FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – It’s no secret millennials, having lived through the Great Recession and sometimes saddled with student loan debt, have been more reluctant than older age groups to acquire a credit card.
While just 14 percent of adults age 35 and older don’t have personal credit cards, for example, that number jumps to 29 percent for those who are 18-34 years old. Likewise, millennials who do have credit cards don’t always leverage them in the same ways as older groups. While only 13 percent of those age 35 and older don’t have a rewards credit card, 28 percent of millennials don’t have rewards credit cards.
In addition to perks like rewards, though, there are other viable reasons millennials should consider credit cards a beneficial tool that can help them achieve financial goals. Credit cards can:
- Help build credit. Spending even as little as $100 a month on a credit card (and paying off the balance) can boost credit scores. Having zero credit, conversely, can be a hindrance when it comes to things like applying for a car loan or mortgage.
- Help track spending. Unlike cash, credit cards allow users to track spending habits and categories in real-time via online account management and/or mobile apps. That’s an increasingly popular capability given that 94 percent of U.S. adults age 18-29 own a smartphone.
- Be safer than cash or even debit cards. Resolving fraudulent credit card transactions can be a nuisance, but at least none of users’ money is gone from their bank accounts. Chip-enabled cards, in particular, offer enhanced protection.
- Offer rewards programs. As previously mentioned, rewards can translate to bonus groceries, travel, or even cash back in some cases. Some credit card issuers also offer rewards programs that come without membership fees.
Millennials who have been hesitant to acquire a credit card also should know there are a good number of tips that can help them avoid detrimental debt. The following are just a few practical tips for managing credit cards responsibly:
- Pick a card with no annual fee and make payments on time. While these may seem like obvious things to do, many credit card users spend money needlessly on an annual fee. Similarly, simply paying the bill on time – and preferably in full – is the No. 1 factor when it comes to determining a user’s credit history.
- Be mindful of the revolving balance. Maintaining a balance too close to the account’s credit limit can be a negative. So, even users who are diligent about paying the bill on time should avoid carrying a high revolving balance.
- Use credit cards to pay for recurring bills like gas, utilities, etc. This is a great way to earn rewards points for regular, normal expenditures. Additionally, some cards offer bonus earning opportunities for certain categories.
- Stick to a budget. Don’t let a credit card result in the illusion that more spending money is always available. Use credit cards wisely and only splurge when extra money has been set aside. These tips can be helpful to anyone, not just millennials. But for a group that largely has avoided credit cards, they may be particularly useful. Millennials can avoid debt without avoiding credit cards.