The ‘Insecure’ star blamed her massive debt on ‘spending too much’ before she made it big, and how to avoid getting saddled with credit card bills you can’t afford to pay
There’s nothing funny about credit card debt.
Just ask comedian Issa Rae, who revealed on an episode of “Ellen” this week that she managed to rack up a whopping $25,000 in credit card debt before she was famous.
“I had thought, when I discovered credit cards, I was like ‘This is easy! The game is locked. All you do is get free money and I keep ordering cards and you pay like $25 a month. I can sustain this. This is easy. Eventually, I’ll be rich,” Rae told Ellen DeGeneres.
But Rae, 33, who was Emmy nominated this year for lead actress in a comedy series for “Insecure,” said she was spending too much and opening more and more credit cards, including a card at a Valero gas station. After getting denied, however, she soon realized she had accumulated $25,000 in debt, and didn’t know how to pay it back.
“At that point, I had barely even seen past three figures in my account,” she said. “I was like, ‘How am I going to get this money back?’”
Like Rae, the hit HBO show she wrote and stars in “Insecure” portrays young women, like Issa’s namesake character, who faces economic insecurity. Luckily for Rae, however, she was able to pay back her own debt, she told DeGeneres.
Spending can get reckless if we don’t budget our purchases and pay credit card bills in full on time. Americans’ credit card debt has reached a record high of $1.02 trillion, according to data released in July by the Federal Reserve. What’s more, the average American racks up $5,422 in credit card debt, and $9,100 per household, according to a 2017 survey from Creditcards.com. More people are using plastic as their sole payment method. Nearly half of Americans (48%) said they usually go a full week without using cash, down from 53% in 2015. And the average credit card balance in the U.S. was $1,734 per account in the third quarter of 2017, according to the same CreditCards.com analysis.
“The best thing you can do is treat a credit card like a debit card,” CreditCards.com industry analyst Ted Rossman told Moneyish of monitoring your spending and not buying more than you can actually afford.
Here are some tips to avoid being saddled with financially crippling credit card debt:
Pay your bill in full each month
If you can’t pay your credit card bill in full at the end of the month, you’re spending too much, Rossman said.
“Don’t get suckered into thinking the minimum payment is what you should be doing,” said Rossman. “The minimum payment is usually 1% plus interest. Even at lower levels it can still take you years even to pay off a few thousand dollars. Pay as much as you can.”
Don’t wait until the bill comes at the end of the month to make one payment. If you can, try to put a little bit of money towards the bill before the end of the month, that way the final payment isn’t so overwhelming.
“A lot of people wrongly assume that ‘if I carry a balance it’s going to help my credit,’ that’s myth,” Rossman said.
Consider a balance transfer
If you’re struggling with high-interest debt, like Rae did, many credit card issuers offer cards with low-0% introductory annual percentage rate. These offers let you transfer various debts to a new credit card and not pay interest for a set period of time. This is a huge help because every dollar you pay will go straight toward your debt.
But you can’t typically get these offers with bad credit. In order to be accepted for a balance transfer card you typically must have a FICO credit score of 720 or higher.
If you get approved, most balance transfer cards offer 0% interest for up to 21 months, though it’s important to note that you may get charged an initial balance transfer fee that’s 3% to 5% of your balance owed, Rossman explained.
Some balance transfer card options that have 0% APR include the Amex Everyday card and the Chase Slate credit card, Rossman noted.
“These can be amazing deals for getting people out of debt,” Rossman said.
Follow the 50/30/20 budget rule
Not overspending on your credit card comes down to knowing exactly where your money is going and taking time to map out a budget and plan to pay back what you owe if you’re in deep debt, Rossman noted.
Dedicate 50% of your gross salary towards fixed expenses like rent and electric; allocate 30% to discretionary and other expenses, like student loan debt and credit card debt, and try to put 20% if you can towards savings.
Limit the number of credit cards you take out
Just because you get approved for more credit cards or higher limits like Rae did, does not mean you can spend more freely. If you can’t control spending, limit your plastic to one or two cards max.
“It’s definitely a common misconception that ‘woohoo credit cards are free money,’ and you can definitely get yourself into trouble that way,” said Rossman of setting financial boundaries.
Know how your interest works
You’ve got to read through your credit card agreement before you start using it to make sure you know how interest will be applied to your account and when exactly you’ll be charged a fee.
“We don’t want anyone to get sucked in to paying tons of interest,” Rossman said, adding that its unwise to put more than you can pay off on a credit card just to rake in the rewards. “All of these perks only make sense if you pay your bill in full.”
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