5 signs you should be using a credit card, even if you've been using debit for years

Business Insider Finance 2 months ago

Using a debit card may be what you're used to, but it's possible that a credit card could be a better deal.

How can you tell? At the end of the day, it really depends on the type of spender you are, how much self-discipline you have, and whether you could benefit from consumer protections and the travel perks some cards offer.

If you're thinking of making the switch from debit to credit, it's important to recognize the signs this could actually be a good idea. Here are five of them.

Keep in mind that we're focusing on the rewards and perks that make these credit cards great options, not things like interest rates and late fees, which can far outweigh the value of any rewards.

You're debt-free with plans to stay that way

You're debt-free with plans to stay that way
Shutterstock/Wayhome Studio

Credit cards may be convenient to use, but the high interest rates they charge make them a poor option if you need to borrow money for the long-term. Where personal loans often come with rates as low as 5.99% APR for consumers with good credit, the average credit card interest rate is well over 17%. Some of the best travel credit cards even come with rates much higher than that.

Because of the high rates, credit cards are best for people who are debt-free with enough discipline to pay their balances in full each month. If you've struggled with debt in the past or know that credit entices you to overspend, you may want to stick with your debit card.

You travel all the time

You travel all the time
Bobby Yip/Reuters

If you travel all the time and don't have a credit card, you're definitely missing out on important benefits. Top travel credit cards like the Chase Sapphire Reserve and Chase Sapphire Preferred Card come with travel perks like trip cancellation/interruption insurance, baggage delay coverage, primary auto rental coverage, and travel accident insurance. Believe it or not, you get these benefits and more for free as a cardholder.

Some of the best rewards credit cards like the Platinum Card® from American Express, Chase Sapphire Reserve, and Citi Prestige® Card also offer annual travel credits, application fee credits for Global Entry and TSA PreCheck, and free entry into airport lounges across the globe. These perks do require you to pay a credit card's annual fee, but they can pay off in a big way if you travel all the time.

Finally, don't forget about all the points you could be earning for free travel. With the right travel credit card, you could be earning travel rewards good for flights, hotels, car rentals, and more.

You are worried about credit card fraud

You are worried about credit card fraud
Westend61/Getty Images

Another big benefit of credit cards is the fact that they almost all come with 0% fraud liability. This means that, if someone makes a fraudulent purchase with your credit card or card number, you won't be on the hook.

The absolute most you may be liable for under the Fair Credit Billing Act (FCBA) is $50 for credit card fraud, and even that's rare since most cards extend zero liability coverage.

But liability on debit cards doesn't work that way. According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), your liability with a debit card is limited to $50 if you report a loss within 2 days of finding out about it but up to $500 if you report the loss within 2 to 60 days of your statement being sent to you.

If you don't report the fraud within 60 days after your statement being sent to you, on the other hand, you could lose "all the money taken from your ATM/debit card account, and possibly more; for example, money in accounts linked to your debit account," notes the FTC.

You wish you had more consumer protections

You wish you had more consumer protections
Fabian Bimmer/Reuters

Some credit cards offer even more consumer protections in addition to better security from fraud. For example, the Chase Freedom offers purchase protection and extended warranties as cardholder perks.

Some rewards credit cards also offer benefits like guaranteed returns, price protection, free insurance for your cell phone, and more. And remember, these benefits are yours for free provided you use your credit card to make purchases you want protected.

You like getting free stuff

You like getting free stuff
Gettyimages/Kevork Djansezian

The final reason to use credit instead of debit is probably the best one. When you use rewards credit cards for purchases, you can score free stuff.

Some credit cards let you earn cash back that you can use however you want, while others dole out airline miles, hotel points, or flexible travel points. The best flexible credit cards even let you redeem points for several options including cash back, travel rewards, gift cards, merchandise, and more.

While various rewards cards offer different amounts of points for each purchase, you'll typically get 1 to 3 points per dollar spent or 1% to 3% back. Some cards with the best rewards programs can charge an annual fee, but there are plenty of rewards cards that don't charge any annual fees.

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