If you havent picked your New Years resolution yet, dont panic: even though we rang in 2012 a week ago, theres still time to set a few personal finance goals.
By changing the way you use your credit cards, you can teach yourself the art of good money management while reducing your debt, so that when 2013 comes knocking you’ll be more financially secure than ever.
Here are a few New Years resolutions that are truly worth considering when it comes to your credit cards.
1) Reduce your debt.
The average American household carries about $10,000 in debt. If you make a concentrated effort to budget your spending and pay your credit card bills on time throughout 2012, you can make that number shrink dramatically. Since so many different credit cards are offering 0% APRs and free balance transfers throughout the course of the year, it might be a good idea to consolidate your debts onto a no interest card to ease your climb back into the black. Just remember that you need to prevent yourself from actually using that card, otherwise those new charges will start accruing interest immediately. Think about freezing the card or sticking it in a jar of peanut butter. Sure, it sounds strange, but it makes it that much harder to use your card.
2) Clean out your wallet
Another great resolution for 2012 is to reduce the clutter in your wallet by eliminating your unused credit cards. As we mentioned last week, you should ideally keep three different cards in your name: one with a long credit history, one with a good rewards program and one with a low limit to use online and at restaurants. If you need two hands to count the pieces of plastic in your purse or wallet, you should resolve to reduce that number by at least half this year.
3) Get rewarded.
Rewards systems are now standard for excellent credit credit cards. If your credit score is above 750 and you arent being rewarded with cash back or frequent flyer miles every time you swipe your card, its time to get with the program. Although we prefer to earn our holiday bonuses with the Citi Dividend Platinum Select, there are plenty of highly rewarding cards on the market to check out in 2012. Visit our Rewards Cards and Cash Back Cards pages to see a comprehensive list.
4) Fight to fix the system.
The CARD Act of 2009 made credit cards much safer to use, but theres still a lot of work to be done before the system is totally fixed. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau needs your help to institute a new, easy-to-understand credit card agreement and to fight the new fees that banks are rolling out to recoup the money they lost when the CARD Act put an end to the practice of overcharging merchants for debit card transactions. If you want to do something that benefits every American this year, resolve to write your congressperson once every month. Urge him or her to support the CFPBs efforts.
Its always a good day to improve the way you use credit cards. By embracing one of these New Years resolutions and sticking to it, you can straighten out your personal finances, reward yourself for responsible spending and make paying with plastic safer for everyone. Good luck, and happy 2012!