Lately a lot of consumers have been asking whether they really need to carry a credit card.
It seems just as easy to get by on cash, and all the identity theft and shady lender practices making headlines aren't reassuring.
Also, the outcry against big banks and practices like debit card fees and swipe fees put off consumers who felt taken advantage of.
We tapped two of our favorite credit experts, Bethy Hardeman of CreditKarma.com and John Ulzheimer of SmartCredit.com, to weigh in on the pros and cons of carrying plastic.
Do you really need a card? Here's what they had to say:
Why You Need a Card
- Travel arrangements. "It's hard to travel with cash all the time," said Ulzheimer. Reserving a room a car rental are tough enough with one and using a debit card instead can be a recipe for theft. There's also a certain kind of relief that comes with knowing you can travel anywhere in the world and still be protected if there's an emergency.
- Protection and security. You'll get a lot more security with a credit card than you will with cash or a debit card. Once the cash is gone, it's gone. And debit cards, which are linked to your banking account, can easily help a crook to your wallet if the card is lost or stolen. As Ulzheimer pointed out, with a credit card, all it takes is a simple phone call to prevent further loss and identity theft.
- Financing a home or a car. It's getting tougher and tougher to take out a mortgage these days, and like it or not, lenders will be checking your credit report. If you haven't got a card, there won't be a credit history to speak of, and you'll have a much harder time proving to lenders you're responsible with money.
Why You Don't Need a Card
- Because you think you should have it. "You shouldn't get one just to get one," said Hardeman, who added that "it's worse to get an auto loan just to get an auto loan. Taking out a lot of debt, even if you have the cash to pay out of pocketm isn't a good idea because you'll likely be paying interest on it."
- You're not planning to buy a home (or a car). "It's really up for the individual to decide," Hardeman said. "But if at some point you're going to need these things, the credit card is the best way to do it."
- You impulse shop. "Clearly, if you're irresponsible or undisciplined, you can find yourself getting into a lot of debt quickly unless you can write a big fat check," said Ulzheimer, but "there comes a point in your life where you do need the convenience of plastic."