Seeking a loan from a friend, a relative or a bank is always a bad idea. One should rather strangle his wants than throw oneself into the abyss of debt. All the finance pundits warn us against using credit cards, and they’re right as most of us abuse them only to end up in debt.
However, if a loan comes with rewards and you know how to spend responsibly, then you’re actually much better off paying with a credit card, rather than with cash or a debit card. And the ease and suppleness that comes with carrying a credit card instead of cash is undisputable.
Here are five reasons why you should own a credit card.
Depending on your lifestyle and needs, you can choose among various credit cards. If your job involves travelling, then you might opt for the cards that earn you bonus rewards for every mile you travel, ultimately winning a free return ticket to your favourite destination. Some credit cards get you reward points for every rupee you spend on shopping, the reward points double on international spending.
You earn one point per specified amount of rupees spent. For example, I earn one point per 50 rupees, and each point equals 40 paisas, hence I earn eight rupees for every thousand I spend. After you reach a certain point of threshold, you can redeem your points for shopping at some stores. A few cards come with two to five per cent cash-back on shopping and fuel, so if fuel prices increase, you end up paying five per cent less regardless.
Credit cards get you a higher percentage off on a number of products at a number of outlets, such as restaurants, various retail stores and shopping malls. Sometimes there are promotional offers too. So if you eat out or spend a substantial amount of your time at cafés, or make purchases from one particular store, then a credit card can be your perfect companion. Sometimes promotional discounts go to the extent of 50 per cent off. Online stores also offer various discounts against different credit cards.
Living in Pakistan, I don’t like to carry a lot of cash with me, and I bet nobody else does either. It’s gone and dusted if you lose it or if somebody steals it. So it’s far better to keep credit cards which are convenient and safe. Even if stolen, you can always get your card cancelled at the convenience of a call.
They are also convenient to use to buy things online, or to buy expensive items. Besides earning miles while you travel, credit card also gives you flexibility of not carrying enough foreign currency, which again is prone to the risk of losing it. Though credit cards charge a fee on foreign transactions, that fee is, however, counterbalanced by double rewards.
4. Grace period + Zero mark-ups
One great ease of using credit cards is the period of days between buying something and the day of payment. The grace period varies from 45 to 52 days. However, the grace period does not count for every transaction you make, but for all the transactions made within a month. There is always a due date by which the payment is to be made. For example, if the due date is the 22nd of every month, then the bill will carry all the transactions made between the first and 30th of the last month.
Therefore, you will have a grace period of 52 days for the first transaction, while only 22 days for the last one. Another most important feature of credit cards is that if you pay your bill on time, you are not charged anything extra. This way you end up rich by numerous points and discounts, while paying nothing in extra. However, if you do not pay the entire bill by the decided due date, the bank will start charging you a mark-up of 38-43 per cent from the date of purchase.
With the introduction of enhanced security features, it has become very difficult for anyone to take advantage of stolen or lost credit cards. You can help yourselves by following the simple rules to not let your credit cards slip away into the hands of potential fraudsters. You can also save yourself from a bigger disaster by paying a minimum premium to have your card insured.
With the fraudulent use of your debit card, you lose all your money at once. By contrast, when your credit card is stolen and misused, you lose nothing. All you do is immediately notify your bank of the fraud and don’t pay for the transactions made during the period, while the bank investigates and resolves the matter.
When you know you have some (plastic) money in your pocket, the temptation to spend might just overcome your ability to keep your expenditures under control. The key is to not to fall for the debt trap and keep reaping rewards, discounts and cash-backs on your credit card.
“Hello Azhar. Yes, I will be available to host that weekend. Regards, from Germany.”
This was the reply I received from Markus, my to-be host, with regards to my couch-surfing request that I had sent, for a two day night-stay in Heidelberg.
I was nominated by my employer to attend a week-long seminar in Frankfurt, Germany and after the five-day sponsored-stay was over, I had decided to stay back and explore other parts of Germany on my own. I searched on the internet for tourist attractions in the country and picked Heidelberg, for its scenic beauty and diversity. But for this two-day stay, I chose not to stay at a hotel, as it was not economically feasible.
Instead I signed up on couchsurfing.org and started searching for hosts. It was here that I came across Markus.
For those who are not familiar with the concept of couch-surfing, it is a new, relatively simple phenomenon; it is a social website where people offer their couches for free to travellers visiting from different countries. The site also serves as a platform to meet othertourists. This is very effective, because it costs the tourists nothing and becomes easy for travellers to find suitable accommodation for a few days.
I had never done this before, so the idea felt adventurous and I didn’t see any risk in staying with a stranger, because the simple fact was that I was the stranger in their country.
So the process of searching for an adequate host began. I sent a request to the host who had the highest response rate; chances of finding a potential host for an individual with no friends and references are very low. A few of them declined my request citing reasons that they already had guests staying with them during that period of time or that they were out of town. Luckily, one host, Markus, responded saying yes and that he was more than willing to host me. It turned out that I was the first person he would be hosting through the couch-surfing website.
We exchanged a few messages and introduced ourselves and I filled him in on my plans to visit Heidelberg. We exchanged numbers and stayed in touch through WhatsApp, since that was more convenient. I informed him about my arrival time at the railway station and he offered to pick me up from there, which I felt was an extremely thoughtful gesture, as in couch-surfing, the host is only entitled to let you have their couch, nothing else.
Nervous, yet excited, I arrived at Heidelberg and looked around for Markus who was patiently waiting with a smile on his face. Since Markus had a dinner planned for the night, he decided to show me around the city in his free time. During our journey, we chatted away, answering each other’s numerous questions and finding out more about each other.
We reached his apartment and he showed me around; it was a beautiful place and I was happy to have chosen him as my host. He finally revealed the couch that I would be sleeping on at night, which was a couch-cum-bed and it looked comfortable enough.
Markus and his girlfriend were extremely welcoming and made me feel at home right away. His girlfriend welcomed me with Thai tea, which served as the perfect hot beverage on a cold and cloudy day. I dropped my luggage off at his apartment, and we decided to take a tram downtown.
As night approached, preparations for dinner were underway. Delicious Thai food was on the menu, prepared by Markus’s friend. Following dinner, the guests, along with Markus and me, sat together and talked away, getting to know each other and inquiring about each other’s cultures and countries. Since it was still early, we decided to watch The Interview, which put an end to our evening on a good note.
The following day, I decided to explore the city further. I visited the 16th century castle, a famous landmark in Heidelberg, as well as the Old Bridge, also known as the Alte Brucke. Since Markus had some assignments to complete, I decided to stay-in and watch some TV and read a book – a great way to unwind after a tiring day.
The next morning Markus dropped me to the railway station and I headed to Frankfurt to take the flight back home.
The experience turned out to be greater than I had expected. I had a free place to stay at, a pleasant couch to sleep on, and lovely hosts to stay with. Not only did I discover a great city, but great people as well. The experience was amazing and I would recommend travelers to give couch-surfing a definite try.
The blog first appeared on Pakistan Tribune.
“I never get tired of the blue sky.” Vincent Van Gogh