How to use credit cards responsibly during coronavirus

7 experts discuss how to use a credit card responsibly during coronavirus to avoid debt.

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Hand with a glove using a credit card at an automatic reader

Panic buying, also known as panic purchasing, happens after a disaster or in anticipation of a disaster. Consumers purchase large amounts of products, say toilet paper for example, which can lead to potential real shortages. As you may know this particular herd behavior is prevalent in light of coronavirus. To help consumers better understand how they should and should not be spending Finder asked several financial experts to share their thoughts.

See what our panelists had to say:


Kevin Joey Chen
Credit Cards Writer, Finder

What is your advice regarding credit card use and what you should be utilizing your card for at this time?

“These are undoubtedly tough times, but there’s one silver lining: You have an opportunity to take stock of your expenses and drastically reduce them when appropriate.

Consider making a list of essential and nonessential purchases. This will help you plan in advance what you might need to spend on — and which spending is pure temptation. During the pandemic, it’s wise to keep virtually all of your spending in the “essential” column. This might include groceries, cleaning supplies and food from restaurants.

If you can put off nice-to-have but nonessential spending, you’ll reap important benefits. You’ll maintain your available credit, which could prove useful during these uncertain times. You’ll also save money as you’ll have less debt to pay off later.”


Steven J. Pilloff
Florida Assistant Professor
School of Business at George Mason University

What is your advice regarding credit card use to avoid at this time?

“Avoid running up credit card balances from purchasing “wants” (as opposed to needs) that you are not highly confident you can pay off quickly. There’s a lot of uncertainty right now, and I encourage people to avoid unneeded major purchases in order to maintain financial slack that may be needed down the road!”


Ben Walker
Credit Card Writer
Finance Buzz

What is your advice regarding credit card use and what you should be utilizing your card for at this time?

“Credit cards are a financial tool that can provide you with increased value and perks on your everyday purchases – when used correctly. In the current climate, it’s okay to continue using credit cards. If anything, it may be even more important for people to have credit cards and to be using them right now.

As unemployment continues to rise and the fear of a recession becomes more realistic, people need a resource that allows them to pay the bills and other essential expenses. The added perk of cash back can also come in handy while money is tight. We hope to return to normalcy as soon as possible, but in the meantime, there are families that need to stay afloat.

While the general rule is to pay off your credit card balance in full each month to avoid accruing interest and fees, it’s okay to break some of these best practices if you’re struggling financially. If you need to use your credit card to put food on the table, then you have to do it. Don’t worry about only paying the minimum amount on your balance each month or missing a few payments in this instance. It’s more important to keep your family safe and secure during this pandemic than it is to worry about your credit score.

Plenty of credit card issuers are offering relief during this difficult time. This may include waived or refunded fees, deferred payments, and credit limit increases. Talk to the company that you bank with about your personal situation and see what they can do to help!”


Jen Smith
Creator of Modern Frugality, Personal Finance Writer
Modern Frugality

Where should you avoid using credit cards?

“Don’t use your credit cards for panic buying at the grocery store. Not only is this hoarding essential supplies and food from other people in need, it’s also a great way to rack up huge amounts of credit debt because of unconscious, desperate buying. If you’re going to shop for groceries and supplies with your credit card, make sure you create a well thought out list of absolute essentials beforehand, to keep your buying and spending in check.”


Chane Steiner
CEO of Crediful
Crediful

Where should you use credit cards during a pandemic?

“Use credit cards for small, one-time payments that you’re confident you’ll be able to pay back in full within the next few months, or ideally within one month. Some examples include small trips to the grocery store, filling up your car with gas, or buying clothes. Keep track of all the purchases you make with your credit card, so your spending doesn’t get out of hand.
Also, take advantage of any rewards or cash-back programs that might come with your credit card. In a pandemic like this, every little bit helps, and if using your card to shop at certain places or buy certain things warrants you extra cash or rewards, it’s a well-justified cause.”

Steven Dashiell headshot
Steven Dashiell
Credit Cards Writer, Finder

What is your advice regarding credit card use and what you should be utilizing your card for at this time?

“You should examine your spending and budgeting as a precaution, and that includes what you’re using your credit card on. If worse comes to worst and you end up without income for a period, you’ll want to make sure you can continue to make your monthly credit card payments in full. Otherwise, mounting interest can put you behind and leave you on the financial backfoot when you return to the workforce.

If you’ve been furloughed or you’re having trouble making ends meet during this time, we’ve been advising consumers to look at 0% intro APR credit cards. Generally speaking, times of hardship aren’t the time to open a new credit card. But if you’ve been furloughed and need a way to temporarily keep yourself afloat, an intro APR credit card can help if you use it right.

A credit card with a 0% intro APR period on purchases can let you make essential purchases without worrying about interest for anywhere from 6 to 21 months.”


Lee Huffman
Personal Finance Writer
BaldThoughts

What is your advice regarding credit card use to avoid at this time?

“Review your credit card statements to see if there are subscriptions or recurring charges that you can eliminate. This can be an easy way to save hundreds of dollars per year.”

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