When it comes to finances, there are spenders and savers, but attitudes toward credit card usage can vary greatly. Take this quiz to see which credit persona best describes you, and get expert tips on how to use credit wisely no matter your plastic personality.
1. You have $100 on your credit card and plan to carry it over to next month, paying just the minimum.
a. If something costs $100, I would have paid with cash.
b. That's a terrible idea. Always pay in full.
c. As long as I pay my bill on time, creditors won't care.
d. $100? I wish that was my balance!
2. You're dying for a cold drink, but you don't have any cash on you.
a. I'll just wait until I spot an ATM.
b. That's why I always carry a reusable water bottle in my backpack. Tomorrow, I'll be sure to add extra ice.
c. It's only a couple of bucks. I'll put it on my card.
d. I kind of want some chips and salsa, too, so I'll just look around the convenience store and put it on my card.
3. You're getting a bonus or tax return. Where will the money go?
a. I'm going to put some in my emergency fund and use the rest to do some repairs around the house.
b. Luckily, I don't have credit card balances to worry about, so I'll probably tack an extra payment onto my mortgage.
c. I plan to use at least 50 percent toward my balances, and then put the rest in the savings account.
d. Um, how do you think I'm paying for my summer vacation?
4. Friends invite you for a weekend getaway, but it's not really in your budget. Here's what you decide to do.
a. Go, but just for one night instead of two since that's what I can afford.
b. Pass this time, and ask for a little more advanced notice so I can save up for next time.
c. Start packing. I've worked hard, and have been pretty good about my spending. I deserve a break.
d. Live it up! That's what credit cards are for.
5. You received a new credit card offer in the mail, and it seems pretty good. Here's what you do with it.
a. Toss it without giving it a second glance.
b. Put it aside, in case I decide to take it.
c. Crunch some numbers to see if the points/rewards could be in my best interest.
d. Take the offer. You never know when the next one will come along.
6. Confession time. Where do your credit card balances stand?
a. Zero. I hardly use my card.
b. In the hundreds, but they'll be zero before the month is out.
c. Higher than I'd like them to be, but I'm working toward paying them off.
d. Not maxed out yet, so I'm still good.
7. When was the last time you looked at your credit card statement?
a. I check when my statement comes each month, because I hardly ever have charges.
b. Yesterday. I like to monitor my accounts online every couple of days.
c. I typically only look at the balance.
d. I don't like to look because it depresses me.
8. How does your credit score look?
a. Don't really worry about it — I pay in cash for everything.
b. I'm careful not to slip up — I want to remain in good standing.
c. I'm working hard to make improvements, but I'm not quite there.
d. Came to the conclusion that I'll never have a good one.
A answers = 1 point
B answers = 2 points
C answers = 3 points
D answers = 4 points
Add up your points to discover which credit personality best matches you.
1-8 points = Cash-Only Christian
He's been burned by credit in the past, and vowed never to use it again after paying his debts and cutting up his cards.
Potential pitfall: “Cash is wonderful, but very few people can buy a brand new car or a house with cash,” says Wayne Sanford, credit expert and owner of Dallas-based New Start Financial. You could end up having a very low or zero credit score after a period of time without using credit, so keep that in mind.
Remedy: Get one credit card, advises Sanford. You can even cut it up if you want, but first, link a reoccurring bill to the account (like a cell phone bill), and pay it off every month on time. That way, you're using credit responsibly and can rebuild your credit score.
9-16 points = Debt-Free Debbie
She pays off her balances every month, and when she does carry a balance, it's not for long since she's all about maintaining a good credit score.
Potential pitfall: While we should all aspire to be like her, you could miss out on opportunities if you're too obsessed with being debt-free, says A.J. Smith, managing editor of SmartAsset, a consumer finance advice site. For example, going back to school might be a wise investment in yourself, even though it might require you to take on debt.
Remedy: Treating yourself here and there is OK, as long as you make it work within your budget.
17-24 points = Tight-Budget Tina
She's diligent about paying bills on time every month, and throws any extra money toward her credit card balances, but she's frustrated at how long it's taking to improve her financial status.
Potential pitfall: It's almost like your credit balances are yo-yo dieting – you pay a little extra this month, but charge more next month. “Credit cards were created to be short-term debt instruments,” says Sanford, but if that principal balance isn't changing over time, you're not paying enough.
Remedy: If you're feeling trapped and powerless in the cycle of spending and credit, get back to the basics, says Smith. “Track what you're spending, and take back the control.” Sanford agrees: “No one truly realizes what they spend day to day until they write it down.”
25-32 points = Plastic-Loving Peter
He relies on credit and tends to be somewhat of an impulse shopper. Although his balances continue to rise, he's accepted that he'll always be in debt, so he tries not to let it bother him.
Potential Pitfall: You're already carrying balances, yet you keep opening more credit cards and store cards to score temporary deals and introductory rates. Now, you can barely handle your monthly bills.
Remedy: Take some drastic steps to get out of the position you're in, says Smith, such as really scaling back on your spending, canceling your cable, etc. If you've made all of those efforts but still find it hard to make your payments, you should consider reaching out to creditors, and/or get on the phone with a professional to help you manage your debt.