Let me start with a simple question for you.
It would be a good idea to walk over to your copy machine right now and copy all the stuff in your wallet. Now, turn everything over and copy the other side that has all the info on how to report a lost card. Now you have all the information you need in case you ever lose your wallet. It might be a good idea to keep a copy of that in your office so if you are out of town, you can call and have someone report the loss before someone else has a field day with all your credit cards. Make sure you keep that info in a safe place.
You might also want to run through this little copying exercise with your spouse and your kids. Your kids may memorize every line of a song, but I am sure they don't have a clue about what they have in their wallets.
What other hidden dangers do you have in your wallet? How about all the plastic? You know what I mean: Visa, MasterCard, American Express, etc. What evil lurks there? Enough to sink your financial future. Credit cards can be a blessing and a curse. Let's deal with the curse first.
What interest rate are you paying on your credit cards? If you don't know, it's time to find out. Check your statement to see the rate. If it is over 12 percent, it's time to make a few phone calls. When you call the credit company, ask them to lower your rate to a "fixed" rate of 10 percent or below, and ask that they increase your credit limit.
You want a "fixed" rate on your credit cards - not one of those rates that starts off very low and in a few months jumps to a rate that will make the credit card company a lot of money. Many people play the credit card game of jumping from one low-rate card to another before a rate increase takes place. Soon, interest rates are going to increase, and when that happens, those cards will be gone and you could be stuck with the higher rate. Lock in a low rate now!
Ask for a higher limit, because all of your card companies will not lower your rate, and you need the higher-rate to transfer your debt from the high rate cards to the lower rate cards. If you have paid all of your bills on time, you should be able to get them to lower your rate and increase your limits.
If you haven't noticed, using a credit card might be your best resource for financing any purchases. Where else can you get a low rate of 10 percent or below, pay as little as the minimum payment, and take as long as you want to pay it off? Now don't think that I am suggesting that you pay the minimum forever, because that is how long it would take - forever! It is nice to know that you have some flexibility to work with.
If you follow what I have outlined in this article, it will help put you in control of at least a part of your financial picture. Now, when someone asks, "What's in your wallet," you will know.
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Click here for previous articles by Stanley Greenfield, RHU.