Q: I have a good friend who seems to think credit cards are a “gift from heaven.” She has run up extremely high balances and now has trouble paying her bills. How do I talk with her about her problem? A: Having a credit card can certainly be a convenience and, in the case of an emergency, a blessing. But having a card can also be a trap resulting in overspending. Those of us with credit cards have a responsibility to use them with restraint and pay the bills. Using a credit card is as same as obtaining a short-term loan. Before making a purchase with a credit card, ask yourself, “Would I really take out a loan to make this purchase?” Keep your purchases within your income limits so that you can pay your bill in full each month. If you don’t pay in full, you will find interest charges added to the balance. Those fees accumulate quickly, making paying the account in full the next month even harder. Additional penalties will be applied to late or missed payments. By paying only the minimum amount on the bill, you subject the remaining balance, which already includes interest and penalties, to more interest charges. Also, you will need years to pay off the bill in full, if you ever can. If you have trouble paying the entire balance each month, consider canceling your account or putting the card away until the time that you have spending under control. Restrict the number of cards you have and never apply for more credit than you can handle. Don’t accept cards because there is a gift or discount on a purchase. Also, don’t get a new card because of a very low interest rate. Often this is a come-on, and after a month or two that introductory rate is replaced by a much higher rate. Know the rules that apply to your card and interest rate. Determine whether that rate applies to past balances only or also to current purchases. Be aware of when your payment is due and whether there is a grace period. Remember grace periods and payment dates can be changed. Review any enclosures that come with your bill. They often have important information about changes in the handling of your account. Keep track of unpaid amounts and past-due notices. Just because you stop hearing from these creditors, the debt has not necessarily been forgotten. More likely, the account has been turned over to a collection agency and will be reflected on your credit report. Having good credit is very important and you are responsible for establishing and maintaining a good credit record. No one else will do it for you. Happenings Wednesday: Panda Kroll will present “Traps in Hiring and Firing.” 5:30-6:30 p.m.; Ventura County Law Library, 800 S. Victoria Ave., Ventura. For information, call 642-8982. July 10: Six-week “Healthier Living Class.” 9-11:30 a.m.; SCAN Senior Resource Center, 6633 Telephone Road, Suite 100, Ventura. For information and registration, call 658-0365. July 10: “Where Does Your Money Really Go?” seminar. 1:30-3 p.m.; Westlake Village Civic Center, 31200 E. Oak Crest Drive, Westlake Village. For information, call 495-6250. The way you receive durable medical equipment through Medicare is changing. If you are on original Medicare — not a preferred provider organization or HMO — and use durable medical equipment, you should attend one of these presentations to make sure you understand how to order your supplies. Thursday: 10 a.m., Marriott Courtyard Esplanade, Oxnard. Thursday: 2 p.m., Ventura County Medical Center Academic Conference Room, Ventura. Friday: 10:15 a.m., Simi Valley Senior Center, Simi Valley. Friday: 1 p.m., Goebel Senior Adult Center, Thousand Oaks. For reservations or more information about these presentations call 800-434-0222. Betty Berry is a senior advocate for Senior Concerns. The advocates are at the Goebel Senior Adult Center, 1385 E. Janss Road, Thousand Oaks, CA 91362, or call 495-6250 or email firstname.lastname@example.org . Please include your telephone number. More …
Credit cards are a blessing that can turn into a curse
About the Author: Betty Berry
Betty Berry brings a deep understanding of senior issues to her position as Senior Advocate for Senior Concerns. She has advocated for seniors since 1993. Through the Health Insurance Counseling Advocacy Program, known as HICAP, she is registered with the State of California as an Insurance Counselor, a Long-Term Care Insurance Counselor and a Community Educator. She has served on the Area Agency on Aging’s Advisory Council as a member and Chair, has been a member of the Financial Abuse Strategic Team (FAST) and currently serves on the Conejo Senior Volunteer Program (CSVP) Advisory Board and authors the Senior Advocate column that appears in the Ventura County Star. Betty completed her undergraduate degree at California Lutheran University and earned her Juris Doctorate degree at Ventura College of Law.
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