It is true that you can learn whether you qualify for a number of credit cards in as little as 60 seconds after you submit personal information for an instant approval credit card. It also is true that you can plunge yourself wildly into credit card debt unless you handle credit carefully. In recent years, many financial advisors have gained worldwide recognition discussing finances on TV, in books and financial seminars – and they all take a serious stance on credit cards.
Some celebrity financial experts look in horror at instant credit cards and all others, seeing them as a dangerous trap that can ruin your finances. Others take a more moderate view and regard credit card use as one tool among many to maximize your buying power without compromising your fiscal future. Perhaps no one author has all the answers, but it is fascinating to see the differences and choose which approach might be the best for your money decisions.
Here are brief and quite simplified summary reviews of three well-known financial authors:
Ramsey is a devout Christian who became a millionaire, but due to some financial difficulties ended up bankrupt. He and his family worked hard and became prosperous again. Ramsey hosts a popular radio show, has written several books and created "Finance Peace University," a nine-week series of lessons described as a God-centered plan for getting out of debt, handling money sensibly and building wealth.
Ramsey has zero use for credit cards. "Broke people use credit cards; rich people don't," Ramsey says in his book "The Total Money Make-Over."
He recommends paying off all debt even if means working hours of overtime, getting a second job and taking money out of savings. He recommends a "snowball" method of paying off credit card debt. Ditch the cards, live on a cash-only budget and add up all outstanding debt. His next bit of advice is controversial: pay off the smallest amount first, even if it charges the lowest interest rate. Then take the "extra" money that ordinarily would go to that creditor and apply it to payments to the next creditor on the list.
Ramsey admits this is not the best financial approach, but he explains that it is psychologically rewarding to some individuals who need to see the number of creditors go down to stay motivated.
Ramsey's approach is more behavior modification and he says many people are more emotionally driven than logical when it comes to money.
Orman, a certified financial planner and the author of many financial books, hosts her own weekly TV show. Orman sometimes includes a spiritual angle to her advice that appears to some readers as a bit New Age and not affiliated with any organized religion. She takes a moderate view of credit cards if people who have a good handle on their finances use the cards sensibly with the balance fully paid off each month and if they pay no annual fees. She recommends having no more than one or two credit cards.
However, her advice is different for people in credit card debt. "First thing, all credit cards must be cut up!" she states in her book, "The 9 Steps to Financial Freedom."
After that, she recommends preparing a payment plan in which you estimate the highest amount you can put toward your overall credit card debt each month. Then add at least $10 a month more than the minimum monthly payment for each card, subtract that from your estimated payment amount and put the "extra" money toward the card charging the highest interest rate. When that card is fully paid off, close the account and attack the next highest interest rate card using the same approach.
The Jamaican-born Canadian immigrant has written numerous books about finances and hosts two TV shows. Vaz-Oxlade uses a blunt-talking, common sense approach to debt and makes no references to organized religion or spirituality in her advice. Vaz-Oxlade contends credit cards are a tool that can be useful and convenient, but only if you understand how cards work, the terms of your card and if you pay off your balance fully each month.
For anyone in credit card debt, Vaz-Oxlade recommends calling the company to try negotiating a lower interest rate. If possible, get a balance transfer to some form of cheaper credit such as a line of credit or another card with a lower interest rate.
She also suggests getting a consolidation loan if you can get it at a reasonable rate and are not racking up any more credit card debt or incurring additional fees. Unlike a number of other financial writers, she is not averse to using home equity to eliminate consumer debt – but this again assumes that you are not amassing another penny of debt and are sticking to a cash-only budget.
Once you have taken these steps, Vaz-Oxlade says you should systematically pay off all debts, paying more than the minimum each month on your highest interest rate debt until it is gone, then applying that "extra" money to the next more expensive bill.
She (and the other two authors) also favor selling unneeded possessions to get cash to knock off debt. In her book "Debt-Free Forever" Vaz-Oxlade says, "Have you heard? Less is the new more. If you have to sell stuff to get out of debt, then that's what you have to do."
No matter which author you prefer, most have the same basic message: Pay off credit card debt, avoid it in the future and live within your means.