January is a time when those with credit cards need to face the harsh reality of their holiday spending.
This might be a good time to reflect on your financial well-being and make sure you’re taking the necessary steps to stay on top of your finances all year round.
Conexus’ Perceptions on Financial Well-Being of Saskatchewan Residents 2021 Survey found that 92% of Saskatchewanians own one or more credit cards. Of those, 34% carry a balance each month, with 62% of those who carry a balance having so for more than a year.
Joel Graham, Financial Wellness Manager at Conexus Credit Union, had six tips to help keep your credit card finances in check throughout the year:
1. Track your expenses - Check your credit card statements regularly so that you can easily see where your money is going
"This is kind of the foundation of all things financial wellness. Reducing the stress that you might feel around your money. I always try to recommend to people, if you can increase some of the friction around spending, so that you're spending really intentionally, that is a really smart way to go about that. At the same time, decreasing the friction for awareness for how much you spent."
Graham says it's important to differentiate between needs and wants.
"If it falls into that want purchase category, how badly do we want it? Are we going to want it again tomorrow? Perhaps we should sleep on it, and if you're really intentional at looking to reduce some of your spending, there's some little ways, like maybe removing your credit cards from some of your favourite apps."
2. Don't max out your cards
"Mostly, that has credit score benefits, which can impact what your interest rate is going to be on future lending products. Some of the best advice is you try to keep that spending to about 30 per cent or less of your total credit limit."
3. Pay your credit card bill on time
"If you're paying it on a later date, that 20 per cent interest rate comes into effect. Now you'd be paying on anything that you haven't paid off in full. As well as some credit cards come with different fees associated for late payments."
4. Pay more than the minimum payment
"We always try to recommend, if at all possible, that you pay off your credit card statement balance in full on a monthly basis. It can be really useful to create a few rules of thumb around this. If your statement comes out on say the 23rd of the month, maybe you've got a little personal rule that on the first of the new month, I pay off my balance in full. I get it to zero and I'm starting fresh at that date. It will definitely help you as far as avoiding those late payments and that significant interest rate that often comes if you didn't pay it off in full...There's a lot of us that are in a place where we are carrying significant credit card debt. Any payment that you can make above that minimum payment amount is going to start to reduce that principle and will benefit you down the line. Anything you can make above and beyond that minimum payment balance is a good thing."
5. Consider doing a balance transfer
"Perhaps you can look to move some of the balance over from the high interest rate card to the low card, which then is going to free up a little bit of cash that you can actually put on to the card, so that you're paying less overall. Definitely, keeping your eye out on what's the interest rate. Are there any opportunities to move a high-interest rate balance to a low-interest rate balance."
6. Choose a lower rate card - If you have a higher credit card balance and are having difficulty paying your card balance down, consider choosing a lower rate card