Can You Be Financially Cautious and Still Use a Credit Card?Being financially cautious is generally a good thing. You may gain a reputation as a penny-pincher, but you’ll save yourself from the cycle of debt. Some people, though, take their caution to an extreme and completely swear off credit cards, thinking the best way to use credit cards is to stay away from them completely. What they don’t realize is that if they learned how to use credit cards capably, they could add another resource to their economic toolkit and make themselves even more fiscally secure. You can absolutely be both financially cautious and a savvy credit card user. Read on to find out why fiscally cautious people may opt for credit.

Credit cards provide more value

We’ve heard financially cautious people throw around the phrase, “No millionaire ever got rich using credit cards.” It’s probably true that nobody has ever gotten rich from using credit cards, in the same way that nobody has ever gotten rich from clipping coupons or taking advantage of sales. However, all of those things can give you more bang for your buck, and in the credit card’s case, it does so with minimal effort from you. With a solid rewards card earning you cash back or points on your purchases, you can make your money work slightly harder for you than normal. We’ve talked about the best cash back credit cards for groceries, dining out, your monthly bills and your medical expenses, and below, we’ve listed two of the best cards we’ve reviewed that will earn rewards on all purchases you make.

Best rewards credit cards

Citi Double Cash Card

Can You Be Financially Cautious and Still Use a Credit Card?The Citi Double Cash Card (a NextAdvisor advertiser) is great for people who don’t care about chasing offers and just want a solid rewards card with no annual fee. It has the highest fixed cash back rate on all purchases of all the cards we’ve reviewed, offering an effective 2% cash back on all purchases. You receive 1% cash back when you make a purchase, and then another 1% cash back when you pay for the purchase, making this card especially good for people who fully pay off their card balances each month. Note that your cash back rewards will expire if you don’t earn any cash back with this card for 12 months, but that shouldn’t be an issue if you’re using the card and paying off the balance every month or over time. While the card has no 0% intro APR on purchases, it has a surprisingly long 18-month 0% intro APR on balance transfers (with a balance transfer fee of 3% or $5, whichever is greater), and gives you a free Equifax FICO score every month to help you keep track of your credit. Perks that come with the Citi Double Cash Card are perfect for financially cautious shoppers, such as Price Rewind, which looks for a lower price on things you buy with your card at retailer sites for up to 60 days after your purchase date, and if it finds a lower price, can refund you the difference between that price and what you paid. The Citi Double Cash Card requires good to excellent credit (usually considered a credit score of 700 or higher) in order to qualify.

Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard

Can You Be Financially Cautious and Still Use a Credit Card?If you’re looking for a travel rewards card, you can’t do much better than the Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard. While other travel cards only offer rewards on certain categories (e.g., travel purchases), this card earns 2 miles per $1 spent on all purchases, and it has an average flight and hotel value of $2.10 for every $100, according to our Travel Rewards Credit Card Analysis. When you redeem your miles, you not only get 5% of your miles back to use toward your next redemption, but you can also redeem for travel with no restrictions on your airline, destination, seating or travel date. To give new cardholders a jump start on your travels, the Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard offers 40,000 bonus miles to those who spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 90 days of card membership — that’s worth a $400 travel statement credit. What’s more, the card has a 12-month 0% intro APR on balance transfers made in the first 45 days of the account opening (with a balance transfer fee of 3% or $5, whichever is greater). Although there is an annual membership fee of $89, it’s waived for your first year and the card has no foreign transaction fees. The Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard requires excellent credit (usually considered a credit score of 750) to qualify.

Need help finding the right credit card for your lifestyle? Use our free customizable Cash Back Calculator to determine which cards are right for your spending habits, or check out our Travel Rewards Credit Card Analysis to see our evaluation of each travel credit card’s rewards.

Credit cards can help you build your credit scores

Most people don’t see their credit scores every day, so it’s easy to not worry about how good they are until the moment someone asks to check them. If you don’t care about your credit scores now, you probably will at some point, whether that’s when you go shopping for insurance, apartment hunting in a competitive real estate market or decide to take out a loan. Good credit scores are a way to show lenders, businesses and landlords that you’re responsible enough for them to give you the benefit of the doubt, and credit scores can also qualify you for better offers and lower interest rates than you would not otherwise have access to. Credit scores are based on a variety of factors, but you don’t have to do much to raise your scores to a respectable level other than use a credit card responsibly (e.g., using a credit card to buy things you were already planning to buy, then paying it off every month). In addition to helping you build your scores, credit cards can also help you keep up with your credit scores, as most of the major issuers offer monthly FICO credit scores for free.

Credit cards only get you into debt if you let them

The root cause of debt isn’t credit cards, it’s spending money you don’t have, and the best way to alleviate that is to make a budget and stick to it. With a budget, you know exactly how much money you have to spend and where it’s going before you spend any of it. Combine that with routinely paying off your card at least once a month so you don’t carry a balance, and you’ll avoid both debt and interest payments. If you’re worried that you still won’t be able to control your spending, you can get a card with a low limit or a secured card that’s backed by a down payment to mitigate the damage of any slip-ups.

Credit cards and debt are inseparable concepts to some financially cautious people. In their thinking, since credit cards charge interest, they’re essentially evil schemes to keep you in debt, but in reality credit cards aren’t evil, they’re just tools. Like many tools, if you use credit cards well, they can make some parts of your life easier, and if you use them irresponsibly, they can hurt you. Knowing more about credit cards can actually help you manage debt. If you’re currently paying off your debt on a card and suffering from the interest, a balance transfer credit card with a long 0% intro APR period can give you some relief. Here are a couple of our top picks for balance transfer credit cards:

Best balance transfer credit cards

Chase Slate

Can You Be Financially Cautious and Still Use a Credit Card?The Chase Slate card is one of the highest-rated balance transfer cards we’ve reviewed, and for good reason. That’s because it offers a 15-month 0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers made within 60 days of opening the card, and for the first 60 days there’s no fee on balance transfers (then it goes up to 5% or $5, whichever is greater). It also has no annual fee and no penalty APR if you make late payments. Additionally, every month you get a free Experian FICO score, which comes with a credit dashboard that helps explain the factors affecting your credit and gives you tips on where you can improve. As a nice perk, you’ll get purchase protection on things you buy with your card, which covers them for 120 days against damage or theft with a $500 claim maximum. Chase Slate requires good to excellent credit (usually considered a credit score of 700 or higher) to qualify.

BankAmericard Credit Card

Can You Be Financially Cautious and Still Use a Credit Card?A strong challenger to the Chase Slate’s balance transfer dominance, the BankAmericard Credit Card has a very similar offer. This card combines a 15-month 0% intro APR on balance transfers made within the first 60 days with a $0 intro balance transfer fee for transfers made in the first 60 days (afterward it’s 3% or $10, whichever is greater). It also offers a 15-month 0% intro APR on purchases. There’s no annual fee and no penalty APR. To help you with your credit, you’ll get a TransUnion FICO score every month for free, and access to an online education portal that can teach you about topics such as budgeting and responsible card use. The BankAmericard Credit Card requires good to excellent credit (usually considered a credit score of 700 or higher) to qualify.

Not sure if the above cards are right for you? Use our free Balance Transfer Calculator to see which cards are best for your transfer amount, intended monthly payment are credit rating.

Credit cards offer more protection than other payment methods

Paying with a credit card has a lot of small convenience perks, such as low or no foreign transaction fees, and freedom from holds against your bank balance when you check into hotels. One of the biggest advantages to using a credit card, though, is the additional security you get. Thanks to the Fair Credit Billing Act, if an identity thief uses your credit card without authorization, you’re merely liable for the first $50 they take, or even less if your card has a $0 fraud liability feature, and if you report the theft before your card gets used, your liability drops to $0. That’s great compared to the debit card equivalent, the Electronic Fund Transfer Act, which only grants that $50 liability protection for two days. After that your liability rockets up to $500, and if you don’t catch the fraud within 60 days, you’re liable for all of the money you lost. Want to learn more? Our guide to credit card security features details everything you need to know.

Being truly financially cautious is all about mitigating risk, and if you master how to make the most out of your credit cards, you’ll turn a liability into an advantage. For more information on how to use credit cards safely and effectively, follow our credit cards blog.

Disclaimer: This content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuer. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer. This content was accurate at the time of this post, but card terms and conditions may change at any time. This site may be compensated through the credit card issuer Affiliate Program.