A new poll is adding to a growing body of evidence about millennials and credit cards. In short: They don’t like them. According to a new survey from Bankrate (a publisher that writes about personal finance and loan rates), only 33 percent of adults between the ages of 18 and 29 have a credit card, about the same rate as was reported in the company’s 2014 survey.
The poll only questioned about 1000 Americans, but other companies, such as the mobile bankers at Chime, have found similar numbers in recent years, so there’s plenty of data to suggest that the research isn't an anomaly.
“It wasn't really a decision that I made, but growing up I was warned of the risks of having a credit card and advised to put off getting one as long as possible,” one 25-year-old told Bankrate. It’s true that credit card debt is a major issue for people in the U.S.—the average household carries almost $16,000 in credit card debt according to figures from last year. But having a credit card and being in debt aren’t the same thing, even if it’s easier to keep yourself from overspending if you don’t have the option of credit.
While credit cards do have some potential pitfalls, they're good to have when used responsibly, and can be a vital tool for a healthy financial life. For example, like it or not, you need credit history for things like housing (even if you’re not planning to buy, landlords often check renters’ credit scores), insurance, getting a loan, and more.
The key is to have a credit card, but never let your balance run over from month-to-month. Pay it off every single month (or, if you’re super worried about overspending, you can even pay off each transaction as you go) so you don’t get hit with interest. In turn, you’ll establish good credit, earn credit card points—which, if you don’t carry a balance, are basically free money—and become eligible for better interest rates for when you do need to take out a loan. Plus, many credit cards come with extras like supplemental insurance for travel cancelations, rental car collisions, and even broken cell phones.
In other words, you might as well reap as many benefits as you can out this pillar of modern spending. Just make sure to do your research to find the card that fits your lifestyle and budget, and don't forget to read the fine print.
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