How Credit Cards Really Work

How Do Credit Cards Really Work?
A Guide For Anyone With A Credit Card.

 

A lot of readers of personal finance blogs are already advanced in their knowledge of how money works; how to make it, how to spend it and how to save it. It’s almost an elite club where we push each other to find new ways to stretch a dollar, make a buck or aim for early retirement. This time, I am writing for those who are not masters of their finance; people like you and me: they may be on either end of the income scale, they drive on the same side of the street and yet know nothing about credit cards.

 

These days, I am working with people and helping them understand their credit card debts.  It’s no wonder that we can get ourselves into financial messes and not really understand how it happened because no one has taken the time to explain how credit cards work.

 

CREDIT

 

Credit. It’s like a four letter word with gatekeepers on either side. Credit seems to be a confusing animal. Here is the simplified version of the way credit cards work. I wish everyone would take a moment and read or share.

 

The Credit Card

 

Credit is money that is lent to people who may have demonstrated the ability to manage money through other means as reported by the credit bureaus. Credit cards are a device to access funds that a bank or institution has given you access to. It is not your money, it is the bank’s money. If you use that money, it is still the bank’s money. You have borrowed it.

 

Let me repeat that. You are borrowing someone else’s money and the credit card belongs to the bank, not to you.

 

In order to assist you, and to be accountable to you, banks issue statements on a regular basis. Generally, they send you a statement monthly that outlines each charge or payment or adjustment that occurred during the last month, if any.

 

The statements have a due date scheduled on them, generally 21-26 days after the date of the statement, and the statement shows you a balance due. This balance is the amount YOU have spent or accrued over the last month. Pay that amount by the due date, and you’ve received a free loan. Seriously.

 

There’s a second amount on the statement called minimum due. This is a good faith payment that the bank expects from you to show that you intend to pay off that balance in time, if you cannot pay it in full. The minimum payment will keep your account in good standing but will not deflect interest from accumulating on the balance that remains.

 

Let’s simplify that: Pay full balance by due date, no interest to pay. Do not pay full balance by due date, then your balance is subject to interest from the date you spent it.

 

I want to mention here that banks are businesses. I am not advocating for the amount of money they make, as I think it’s truly excessive (my opinion). However, judging by the amount of people who do not understand how to use a credit card, it’s no wonder that they are making oodles of money and you are losing your hard-earned money in return.

 

Example: If you borrow a library book and don’t return it on time, the library fines you. This is no different. If you choose to pay in instalments on a credit card, that’s your choice to do so – that’s why the credit cards set out minimum payments.  It’s enough to keep your account current, but if you do not return the funds in a timely manner, there are fines to pay.

 

Interest on the Credit Card

 

Interest is how banks make lending money affordable. It’s how they make their money. And, if you are reading personal finance blogs, it’s all about how to make the money, right?

 

Interest rates on credit cards can range anywhere from 12 – 30%. Banks generally have lower interest rates available to those with good credit, but there’s a catch:

No rewards, good credit = lower interest rate 

Rewards, good credit = middle interest rate 

No rewards, bad credit = higher interest rate

Rewards, bad credit = highest interest rate 

*there are exceptions to every rule, but this is a general perspective.

 

Before deciding on a credit card that earns you miles, or points or freebies, you need to consider how you use your credit. If you pay your balance in full each and every month, a higher interest rate and higher rewards would benefit you because you wouldn’t pay interest. However, if you carry a balance, then you would be paying interest on these funds, and would have to consider if the cost of carrying the balance at that interest rate is worth the rewards you are receiving. It doesn’t make sense to pay a high interest rate to earn air miles, for example, if you could turn that interest into a flight by the time you are done!

 

Before deciding on a rewards card, make the decision to pay off the balance every month; otherwise, you are paying for the rewards. Why not just pay for what you want? Click To Tweet

 

Interest rates are set by market standards: cost to borrow money (if the bank borrows), cost to run the business, cost of risk from customers, etc. The standard credit card will have a range of interest rates from 18 – 22%, and more if you are higher risk. This is why the cost of borrowing money is so expensive.

 

Remember, when you don’t pay your borrowed funds back by the due date, you will owe interest!

 

Cash advances on the Credit Card

 

A lot of people have no idea what or how a cash advance works! A cash advance is when you use an ATM machine to withdraw cash from your credit card. Alternatively, it can also be when you use your credit card for gambling or lottery. These transactions are often processed as a cash advance.

 

Your credit provider likely has a fee for cash advances, as cash advances are a service provided in conjunction with the Mastercard and other networks. Like a scenario where you withdraw funds from another bank’s ATM, the other bank will likely have a service fee attached as well.

 

That’s not all that happens with cash advances. Interest begins the day that you take the cash out, and will continue until your full balance, purchases and cash advances together, are paid off.

 

Cash can be used for nearly anything and is not traceable as easily as a purchase, which makes it a higher risk transaction.

 

Cash advances are usually charged at a higher interest rate because they are a higher risk to the bank. There are usually fees associated with obtaining a cash advance, and interest starts on the first day that you take one out.

Let me repeat that: cash advances accrue interest the first day you take it out.

CREDIT CARDS Before you assume you understand the credit card, read this. I was shocked at the questions that I heard over and over. Here are your answers. #credit #creditcard #debt #wealth #money #budget

Credit cards have complicated repayment methods, and are individual to each company. There’s a good chance that your payment is spread between regular purchases and cash advances, after paying fees and interest. If you carry a balance on your credit card, you will likely not be able to directly pay back the advance. Interest on that cash advance will continue, at a higher rate, while you pay down the remainder of the balance. That couple hundred bucks you borrowed will be eating at your payments for a long time.

 

Credit cards are fantastic tools for managing your money, building credit and earning rewards, but only if you pay them in full every month. If you carry a balance, you are borrowing money, and that means the lender can charge you to do this, so don’t be surprised at the result!

Using your Credit Card Correctly

Many people get credit cards and think they know how they work, but be sure you do. Understand how interest is calculated. Be aware of annual fees, late fees, interest charges, and interest rates. I am sure to get feedback from some people that this is common knowledge, but I assure you, it’s not. If you have any questions about how credit works, please send me a message or comment below, because credit is not an easy concept for everyone, and there’s no reason to be lining someone else’s pocket when it could easily be your own.

 

This post may contain affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I may earn a small commission if you choose to purchase through these links. Please see my disclosure for more information. Amazon Affiliate Disclosure: I am a participant in the Amazon Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for me to earn fees by providing links to Amazon.ca and affiliated sites.

Growing Wealth Through Investing with the Sassy Investor

Growing Wealth Through Investing
with the Sassy Investor

 

The money journey is a long road for some. We know that it’s best to pay off debt as fast as possible, but then what? Do you know where to start saving for retirement, a home or other big value goals?

 

How do you know where to start investing, and what if it's too late? Michelle Hung of the Sassy Investor shares her advice as a CFA. #investing #wealth #advisor #money #investor

 

I reached out to Michelle Hung, an Chartered Financial Analyst and advisor in Ontario, and asked her some questions. My questions are in bold, and her answers follow.

 

Who is Michelle Hung? 

 

Michelle Hung is the founder of the Sassy Investor.  An advocate for financial literacy, she is on a mission to spread the word on the on the importance of financial independence and how to achieve it.  She graduated from the University of Waterloo in 2008 with a Bachelor’s of Mathematics, with a specialization in Finance.

She spent seven years working in investment banking and venture capital in Toronto.  Through her experience in advising companies in capital raising, mergers & acquisitions, and initial public offerings, she has a rich understanding of capital markets and how it all ties in with the average investor.  In 2014, she obtained the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) designation, a globally recognized investment management credential.

 

savvy Investor

 

What does your designation of being a Chartered Financial Analyst represent?

 

The CFA (Chartered Financial Analyst) is a globally recognized investment management designation that holds its charterholders to one of the highest fiduciary standards in the world.

 

Do you often work with new investors?

 

Yes, I teach women, specifically, how to invest, step-by-step, what they need to know and what they need to do to be able to build and manage their own investment portfolio.

 

What is the first area you suggest new investors start with?

 

I always say, you have to start with YOU. That is, looking at:

  1. What you owe
  2. What you own
  3. What you make
  4. What you spend
  5. So you finally get to what you want

 

It starts with looking at one’s personal finances because there are a few things they’d have to tackle before starting to invest, like clearing consumer debt.  Then they’d have to look at what they want and when they want it, because money being allocated to an upcoming wedding in a year, for example, will not be invested, but instead, put into a high-interest savings account.

 

What advice do you have for people who are starting late?

 

It’s never too late. Too late is never starting! Many people over-estimate their age and when they should start investing, and then give up. I’ve had people in their early 30s believe they were starting too late. There are solutions for every age, every stage in life – they just need to seek good advice.

 

It’s never too late to start investing.There are solutions for every age, every stage in life – they just need to seek good advice. - Michelle Hung, The Savvy Investor Click To Tweet

 

Do you believe in paying off debt before investing?

 

Yes, particularly consumer debt (credit card debts), or any debts that bear a high interest rate.

 

Do you recommend using real estate as an investment vehicle?

 

It depends on your situation. To throw all of your eggs in one basket, like real estate, is not smart. Real estate has its risks and many people see it as the only solution to wealth building, but it’s not the case.

 

I bought my first house in university and rented it out to students and I discovered how labour-intensive it was! And then when I was selling it, I had to bear all of the carrying costs while it was being listed and shown to potential buyers.

 

On the other hand, there are alternative solutions to adding real estate into your portfolio mix, and that is investing in REITs (real-estate investment trusts), where you get the exposure to real estate, both commercial and residential, but you don’t need to be a landlord and fork out your labour and tons of cash.

 

What else do you recommend for new investors?

 

Diversify geographically. North Americans tend to have a “self-centred” mentality where we only deem Canada/ US as the only “safe” countries. Imagine, you’re American, get paid in US dollars, your employer is American and maybe you get some stock-options or bonus pegged to the performance of your employer – it’s a huge bet on your home country, especially if your investment portfolio is comprised of American companies as well! No single country is immune from an economic downturn, so it’s important to diversify geographically.

 

Countries like Belgium, Switzerland, Singapore, Japan, Panama – we embrace travelling to these countries, so why not invest in them as well? Each country offers a different type of economy and adding that to your portfolio mix can have some great benefits, like when the markets at home experience volatility from political issues, for example.

 

How can people reach you? Are you on social media?

 

You can reach me on:

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/thesassyinvestor/

Facebook Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/sassyinvestor/

Website: https://thesassyinvestor.ca/

Also, stay tuned for my book coming out this winter!

 

Thank you, Michelle, for sharing these important words with our readers. It’s critical to know it’s never too late to start, no matter what your age is. Hopefully we will get a chance to talk to Michelle again when her new book is out! 

 

If you are interested in real estate investing, I recommend:

Real Estate: 10 Simple Steps on Buying and Selling Property in Ontario

411 on Home Inspections: 5 Experts Weigh In

Save My Rental: What You Need To Know About Tenant Selection

 

New to TFSAs and RRSPs? Check out my e-Book on Amazon:

investing in RRSP & TFSA

 

This post may contain affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I may earn a small commission if you choose to purchase through these links. Please see my disclosure for more information. Amazon Affiliate Disclosure: I am a participant in the Amazon Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for me to earn fees by providing links to Amazon.ca and affiliated sites.

When Every Dollar Counts: Quick Shopping Tips and SCOP

When every dollar counts, you need to make the most of it! #groceries #money #saving #wealth #credit #scop

When Every Dollar Counts:
Quick Shopping Tips and SCOP

 

We live in a world where every dollar matters and time is money. This is why I want to talk about shopping habits and how I get the most for my money and time.

 

Like many of you, I shop for items at the best price, and that often means shopping at big box stores, like Walmart or Target (when they were in Canada, or when I am in the States). Throughout this debt-free journey, I have made a very serious attempt at going into the stores, purchasing what I need and came for, and leaving.

 

It doesn’t always work in my favour, as I am as prone to impulse buys as the next person. However, there are times that I can take advantage of my wandering eye when shopping at big box stores and grocery stores alike:

 

End-of-Aisle Products

 

Did you know that end of aisle products are often the products on sale, and are considered “loss leaders”? If you watch the end of aisles for the sales items, the store will place the most “on sale” items at the ends to lure customers into making an impulse buy. This isn’t always a bad thing, as these are usually highly discounted items.

 

If they are items I buy on a regular basis, I try to stock up and buy two or three or more, depending on the expiration date. While it may not be an item on my list, it’s something that I use regularly, and by buying in a bulk amount, it saves me from paying full price the next time I need it and it’s not on sale.

 

Great examples of this are toilet paper, cereal, paper towels, and canned goods.

 

So, there I am, with a small list of items to purchase, and suddenly my cart gets just a little bit fuller. I enjoy walking most of the store (it’s a bad habit of mine as I suffer from OCD, and therefore I walk the store in the same way each time – it’s a point of contention at a grocery store with the husband, as he wants to go in, get what he wants, and leave.). It’s true that it leaves me susceptible to more purchases, but that’s where willpower comes in. At the same time, I have scored some great deals on clearance or on sale that otherwise would have been missed! Plus, I am getting my exercise (so I tell myself).

 

Look above and below eye-level

 

Stores often place their convenience items in the aisles, so that you have to see aisles of products while searching for an item on your list. Eye-level products are usually the most popular and most expensive, so be sure to scan the bottom and top shelves for other items that may be cheaper. Some people are supporters of no name products – for me, it depends on what it is. If you can find a no name, or store brand of what you are purchasing, it’s often 25-50% cheaper than the brand name.

 

Don’t sacrifice value for $0.50, though. It’s not worth it if it’s something you really like. For me, that’s ketchup… or toilet paper… or feminine products. No name and store brands do not always equal the same value. But some items, like facial cleanser, pharmacy products like pain killers, or certain canned goods are made at the same factory, have the same or less ingredients as the brand name, and are exactly the same quality. It pays to be a smart shopper and look at labels to compare.

 

Coupons

 

Since I live in Ontario, it’s difficult to find coupons on items other than cleaning supplies and…well, cleaning supplies. Sometimes the stores will have small dispensers or pads of coupons on new products, or products that the manufacturer is looking to promote. Keep your eye out for coupons only on the items you regularly use, and remember to take two or three.

 

It’s frowned upon to take a whole pad of coupons, as most people cannot use thirty by the due date. Read the fine print – usually it’s one coupon per purchase, and sometimes per day. The store may not let you have 30 separate transactions. If they do, and you can use or donate the items before the expiration date, have at it. Just don’t be greedy and let items go to waste – that’s money going down the drain.

 

We may not have double coupon days here, but fliers are a great way to price match. Some stores will allow price matching from fliers of retail stores (not online stores, however). I recommend browsing the Flipp app to compare prices before heading out. This also saves you from going to three different stores across the city to hit each sale. (Trust me, I have tried to do that, and I seem to expend more gas than what I save.)

 

Price Book

 

It’s hard to remember what the prices are for every item, especially at their sale price, so some people recommend creating a price book. You can find these on Amazon, if you want a template, or you can create your own using a small notebook.

 

You will want to record the items you regularly purchase, and what you paid for them. Remember to write the per pound or per litre price if applicable. For example, you may purchase stewing beef for $7.99, but what’s the per pound price? That’s the price you need to know.

 

Beware of the Dollar Store

 

By having a price guide, you will be able to tell if a sale is really a sale. Many people will recommend going to the dollar store to purchase garbage bags, laundry soap, or other essential items sold in smaller quantities. However, that’s where the price changes! When sold in smaller quantities, the price will be lower… but compared to a larger item, your per unit price is higher at dollar stores.

 

What I mean is, if you only need cupcake liners for a class project, then the dollar store is perfect for providing a small container of cupcake liners for a dollar or two. But once you start purchasing cat food, laundry soap or garbage bags – things you are likely to use a decent quantity of over a period of time, you will find yourself purchasing those items more often (because they are in smaller quantities) and paying more. You might be able to get a box of ten garbage bags for $2, but a box of 40 might be $5 at the grocery store, and that’s a savings of $3 over time.

 

Checking out

 

Now that I’ve managed to find the items I went shopping for, plus a few items on sale that I can stash away in my pantry, I head to the checkout.

 

Here’s one of the biggest secrets of shopping: The Scanning Code of Practice.

 

Have you heard of SCOP?

 

The Scanning Code of Practice is a voluntary policy that many stores do subscribe to. Do you know what it is? Click To Tweet

 

The Scanning Code of Practice is a voluntary policy that many stores do subscribe to. Canadian Tire and Walmart, for example, has it posted at the cash registers, but most people are trying to bag their items, or watch the register or keep track of the kids, and don’t take the time to read it.

 

If an item scanned for higher than the posted price on the shelf OR in the flier, you are entitled to invoke SCOP. If the store subscribes to SCOP, that means you get the first item discounted by $10, or free if under $10. Each separate and unique UPC (the scanned barcode) on an item that scans in at an incorrect price above the posted price is eligible for SCOP.

 

Let me give you an example so you know how to use it. I have purchased laundry soap at Walmart, and before choosing the item, I figured out the per unit price to ensure I was getting the best deal. The sticker on the shelf, which matched the UPC, said the item was $9.97.

 

When I was at the cash register, the item scanned in at $16.97. I told the cashier that the sticker price on the shelf said $9.97, not $16.97. She called for someone in the department to check it out, and yes, I was correct. Someone had “labelled them wrong” but this time, it was to my benefit. Because the item was $16.97, I was entitled to $10 off the product because the price was entered wrong. This means I paid $6.97 for my laundry soap.

 

It will take a few extra minutes, and some patience, and sometimes you will have to ask for a manager to get the SCOP applied (because staff are only trained for so much), but it is worth it when I have saved money!

 

Always, always check your receipt before you leave the store, because you are still entitled to the SCOP even after you’ve checked out. Customer service can assist you with that as well.

 

Paying for my Purchases

 

Because of my shopping habits, I pay the least per item when I can, I buy in multiple if it’s a good deal and stash it in my pantry, and I watch to make sure I am not overcharged (or double charged) for an item.

 

Finally, I pay with a credit card.

 

This may come with some difference of opinions as some people think paying with a credit card is an easy way to overspend. It’s all about using it as a tool, and getting the most out of your money.

 

New with credit or not so great credit? Here are a few of the easier cards to obtain and still earn rewards with no annual fees or membership fees:

 

Walmart Mastercard earn Walmart rewards – money you can redeem either while you earn, or save it up for when funds or short, or for Christmas shopping.

 

PC Financial Mastercard has a program to earn PC dollars, which gives me free groceries. With moderate use, and always paying it in full, I earned over $80 in groceries in less than a year. That’s $80 extra dollars towards debt or other expenses.

 

RBC Rewards Visa can be transferred into gift cards. Want an evening out or a gift for someone? Free.

 

Canadian Tire Mastercard or the Triangle Mastercard earns Canadian Tire money on the card, no matter where you shop. I used mine for a vacation, and when I had to purchase tires for my car, I was able to save 25% on sale, pay for one tire with rewards, and the cost to me was only half of what it could have been.

 

This is a small list of reward cards, but don’t get stuck with one that you don’t receive any benefit for. Make your purchases count.

 

My Quick Guide Tips

 

That’s my quick guide to getting the most out of shopping for your everyday essentials. I never pay with something that I am not earning rewards on, and I pay off that purchase in full. I try to avoid ever paying full price for an item, and I keep track of per item cost so that I am not caught in a “special” that isn’t a special. And sometimes, I will splurge on a few things, just so you know I am as human as the next person!

 

What are your shopping habits? Do you have any to add? Where do you get the best deals, or what do you want to know about?

 

Recommended Reading:

How To Make Money with Passive Income and Virtual Services

7 Changes That Have Saved Us Over $1,000

How Much Would You Pay For Tomorrow?

 

This post may contain affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I may earn a small commission if you choose to purchase through these links. Please see my disclosure for more information. Amazon Affiliate Disclosure: I am a participant in the Amazon Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for me to earn fees by providing links to Amazon.ca and affiliated sites.