Credit Cards

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Although credit cards cause many people trouble, they also play a positive role in the lives of many Canadians. Credit cards work best when you don't need them; you can derive the most benefit from credit cards when you are capable of paying off your balance fully every month.

There are two primary ways to profit from the use of credit cards:

Rewards Credit Cards and Cash Back Credit Cards

Rewards and Cash Back Credit Cards are the most common way individuals benefit from the use of credit cards. The owner of a rewards credit card receives an incentive to purchase items with their card. The incentive usually takes the form of points which can be exchanged for merchandise, or cash. If two people were to make the exact same purchase, one person with cash and the other with a rewards credit card, the person with the rewards credit card would actually pay less for the item, as they would receive the incentive from the credit card company in addition to the item itself.

Interest-free line of credit

A credit card is essentially a "line of credit", which is due at the end of each month, but can be extended for a high interest fee. If you pay off your credit card balance in full at the end of the month, you are not charged any interest on it.

Therefore, even if not using a rewards credit card, shopping with a credit card can in fact be cheaper than cash. This is easier to understand with an example: Two people make the same $1200 purchase - one pays cash, the other pays with a credit card. The person who pays cash no longer has the cash, as they gave it to the merchant in exchange for the item. The credit card holder, on the other hand, has the cash for another 30 days, which is when his credit card bill comes due. Because of this, the customer who used the credit card earned 30 days more interest on their money then the person who paid using cash - if the interest savings rate at the bank is 10%, that would mean the customer who used the credit card saved $10 by using their credit card! (10% * $1200 = $120 / year, or $10 / month)