Most Americans have credit cards nowadays. That being said, a lot of those people also have credit card debt. Credit cards can be helpful if you have an emergency or otherwise need to purchase something you do not have cash for, but they can also be dangerous if you do not have the money to pay them off. The good news is that there is no requirement that you have a credit card, or that you use one for most purchases. There are some alternatives to credit cards you can also use.
Obviously, the primary way to pay for things, credit cards withstanding, is still cash. Even cash can be dangerous as, if you lose it, there is no way to get back. If you lose a card, you can cancel and replace it and your money is still in your account. But cash is not always practical, especially for large purchases or transactions involving the internet.
That being said, the next obvious answer is probably debit cards. Do you not have a checking account? Gift cards can work just as well. There are clearly gift cards for almost any store you might want to shop at, but the more convenient answer is basically a reloadable debit card. Visa has one of these, and it is the same concept the Green Dot MoneyPak uses. These are convenient because the money is already there. You do not have to worry about spending more than you have, like you could with a credit card, but you can also make larger purchases without carrying that much cash, or buy things from the Internet.
That being said, there are also disadvantages to this method. As recent scams using these prepaid cards online have been circulating, you might want to check the website of the vendor you use to find what sites they approve of or what their policy on fraud is.
And if the purchase you want to make is something as large as furniture, you can get small loans from the bank. Your interest rate will probably be lower than that of credit cards anyway.
The key to remember is that every method has its pitfalls, so you have to be careful no matter how you pay. But they are a lot of choices out there and, if you cannot afford to have a credit card, there are alternatives that you can use without racking up so much interest.
Kari discovered the magic of writing early, in elementary school, and has devoted every spare moment to it since. She writes fiction for her own amusement, and recently began writing articles for The Daily Tar Heel in Chapel Hill. Besides writing, she loves spending time with friends and family, reading, and drinking coffee. She defines herself based on her faith in God, her family roots, and her dream of one day publishing a best-selling novel.