Best and Worst Times for Chicago Credit Card Carriers to Use Plastic

It's not news that using credit cards has some drawbacks - namely, the risk of accumulating overwhelming debt.

But credit also comes with some conveniences, such as a quick way to make purchases, an organized monthly statement and (assuming you're using your card wisely) the ability to build credit. So how do Chicago consumers strike a balance between the good and the bad? According to, there are some universal cues that will warn you when it's best to keep your card safely in your wallet. Here's our summarized version.

Impulse buys
Your goal is to keep credit under control - ideally you should know about how much you're putting on your cards each month, and have a plan to pay them off. So it makes sense that you shouldn't put those impulse buys on plastic. If you don't have enough cash on hand - or even in the bank - to make your sudden purchase, look at it as a wakeup call that you may not actually need the item(s). At the very least, go home and think about it. Chances are that whatever you're lusting after will be there on the store shelf when you get back.

Changes in spending behavior
Most of us have a spending routine - maybe we use cash at the grocery store but credit at the gas station. If you notice yourself using credit for purchases that you used to make with cash - for instance, the small things like your drink and pastry at the coffee shop or getting your hair trimmed - it's a sign you're becoming overextended. Using more credit is only avoiding the problem - instead, it might be time for a budget tune-up or a new savings plan.

Credit history
Using credit carefully can boost your credit score. But using it poorly causes more harm than good. Stop using credit when you approach your credit limit, not just when you're about to exceed it - carrying too much debt will hurt your score, even if you're following the rules. If this is a regular occurrence, request a higher limit or a new card or use another payment method. The same goes if it's a stretch to pay more than the minimum each month.

There are many more things to consider when using credit, and everyone's experience is different. In the end, listen to your gut. If you're getting a guilty or nervous feeling about putting a purchase on credit, it's probably for a reason. And if the damage is already done? Bankruptcy can help get you back on your feet. It's free to learn more when you try a complimentary personal debt analysis with a Chicago bankruptcy attorney.

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