Cut Back on Credit Cards

By: Rachel Pierce Email
By: Rachel Pierce Email

Do you ever feel like statements and credit-card offers just keep coming? Consumer Reports Money Adviser says cutting down on your credit cards is one of the simplest ways to streamline your financial life.

"Most people only need one or two credit cards," said Amanda Walker, CR Money Adviser. "If you carry an American Express or Discover card, you might want to consider adding a MasterCard or a Visa, because they're more widely accepted."

If you carry a balance, a Web site such as BankRate.com or CardRatings.com can help you find a credit card with a low, fixed interest rate.

If your current interest rate is too high, look into transferring your balance to another card. But make sure you read the fine print.

"If you transfer a balance to a card with a zero percent introductory rate, that zero percent probably only applies to the transferred amount, not to any new charges," said Walker. "SO you want to put any new purchases on a different card."

And when it comes to retail store credit cards, which typically have sky-high interest rates, dump them, unless you use the perks they offer, such as free shipping for online purchasing and special savings for cardholders. But don't close too many cards at once. It may hurt your credit score.

"If you have, say, a $5,000 balance on seven credit cards, you'll actually have a better credit score than if you have the same $5,000 balance on two cards." said Walker.

And to keep your credit cards' paperwork under control, shred your bills after one year. Unless you're using credit-card statements to support tax deductions, you don't need to save them. It may be the easiest few pounds you'll lose this new year.

Thanks to federal law, you're entitled to a free copy of your credit report each year from each of the three major credit reporting agencies. Don't be confused by agencies offering to sell you the same information. You can find out how to get your free report at www.AnnualCreditReport.com.


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