(StatePoint) We are in the midst of the holiday season, and if you are like many people, you’ve probably already spent more than you anticipated.
More consumers are looking to use a credit card this season to pay for gifts, and they plan to take longer to pay it off than in previous years, according to a recent NerdWallet survey. In fact, more than 39 million Americans are still carrying some of last year’s holiday balance on their cards today.
While credit card use is common during the holidays, the key is making sure you use the right card, are aware of common fraud tactics and have a plan to pay off debt quickly. Here are some helpful tips from The United Services Automobile Association (USAA):
• Pick the right card. The average American has 2-3 credit cards. During the holidays, make sure you use those cards that won’t leave you with financial regret afterward. Balance the benefits of reward points, zero percent APRs, or special deals, with the long-term cost of borrowing money. For example, store credit cards give exciting discounts at the time of purchase but often charge higher APRs than a card you already have in your wallet. Take a moment to think about how you will pay after the fun of holiday spending is over, and don’t forget to review the fine print associated with making big purchases.
• Be smart and safe. If you are shopping online, make sure the website starts with ‘https://’ to ensure it’s a credible site before making a purchase, and be sure to turn off Wi-Fi auto-connect and Bluetooth when you’re out and about this holiday season. Connecting to public Wi-Fi is dangerous and less secure than connecting to your mobile network. In addition, think twice before sharing your logon information over the phone or clicking on random links in emails from unknown sources, such as “track your package,” “open your holiday greeting” or “free gift card.” Fraudsters often impersonate credible companies to get you to share your logon information or click links.
Now is also a great time to consider changing your account passwords and enrolling in multifactor authentication (MFA) where available. Using MFA, creating unique passwords, responding to fraud alerts and monitoring your accounts are critical steps during the holiday season.
• Start planning to pay it off now. Be sure to keep track of your spending so there are no surprises in the new year. Decide when you want to have your card paid off, and calculate the best plan of action based on your lifestyle and finances. Utilize your bank and credit card companies’ resources to create a realistic timeline that still allows for your everyday and monthly expenses. Many financial institutions, such as USAA, offer free financial tools to help.
For more tips and resources to help stay on track, spend responsibly and avoid cybercrime this holiday season, visit usaa.com.
By approaching the season responsibly, you can make the holidays fun and exciting -- not stressful.
Photo Credit: (c) Kirill / stock.Adobe.com