Don't let holiday shopping trigger credit card debt

Use credit wisely and pick the right cards

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - When it comes to holiday gift buying, many shoppers reach for their credit cards.

"Consumers are starting to pay down their credit card debt, which is fantastic, and we don't want this holiday season to reverse the trend," said Martha Cox, vice president of Family Foundations, a credit-counseling organization.

Cox said consumers can put themselves into debt when it comes to holiday shopping. She said it's OK to use a credit card, as long as it's used wisely. One trick is to pick the right card to charge.

"Use a credit card that doesn't have any balance on it so that as soon as the bill comes in you can pay it off, and then you aren't paying any interest on your holiday purchases," Cox said.

There are some advantages to using credit instead of debit cards. Credit cards offer consumer protections against fraud and unauthorized transactions. Some credit card purchases are protected by the Fair Credit Billing Act, which makes it easier to dispute charges for those who order a gift online and it shows up damaged or doesn't come in at all.

But those advantages don't mean anyone should go credit card crazy, especially for someone who can't pay it off as soon as the bill arrives in the mail.

No matter cash, debit or credit, here's some suggestions for holiday spending:

  • Make a list of everybody you need to shop for.
  • Design a set amount for each person's gift.
  • Then put that money in an envelope with that person's name on it so you don't overspend.

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