Credit Card Learning Curve

It’s been about a month since I received my shiny new Visa credit card in the mail. I’d love to say that the whole thing has been a resounding success so far, but it hasn’t. Don’t get me wrong, it hasn’t been a complete failure. But there have been some issues, and a few things I’m going to have to adjust to.

Right off the bat, I felt like I failed at using credit responsibly. We had a pricey weekend at the grocery store ($101.96), which happens from time to time. It always seems like we run out of toilet paper, paper towels, and other pricier items all at once. No big deal, I had the money in the bank to cover that. Except, Kohl’s was clearing out their swimsuits online. And I really wanted a new swimsuit for our upcoming vacation. I’d found three online that I really liked, in my size, and being online, I wasn’t sure which would fit the best. But I’d already spent down my clothing fund, and there wasn’t enough money in my spend account to cover the swimsuits and the grocery store charges.

I’ll be honest, I was really tempted to just buy the swimsuits, and worry about the credit card payment later. Really, really tempted. So, what did I do? Nothing. For eight days, I didn’t do anything. I didn’t pay the grocery charge, or order the swimsuits. I just waited, and thought. Overall, I was really disappointed in myself that this was even an issue. After all, if I didn’t have the credit card, I wouldn’t even be thinking about it. The money just wouldn’t be there!

In the end, waiting it out turned out to be a good thing. One of the swimsuits sold out. Kohl’s sent me some coupons. I squeezed my budget a little bit harder. I managed to find a way to pay off the grocery charges, and buy two swimsuits.

I’m still a little disappointed in myself though. After all, when I got the card, I told myself that I would pay off the charges immediately, so it would be just like spending cash. So, after that first charge, I decided to double down, and do what I originally set out to do.

Except, paying off the charges immediately isn’t an option. I quickly found that it takes several days to be able to pay off recent charges on your account. Even though the charges show up online!

My credit card transaction history.
My credit card transaction history.

There are two charges showing up right now online, both dated for 8/08/16. We actually made those charges on Friday, 8/05, and Sunday, 8/07. It took several days for the charges to show up. But, even now that they are there, I still can’t pay them:

Payment options.
Payment options on my credit card.

I’ve already paid the $57.17 statement balance, so it won’t let me pay that. And when I try to enter an “Other Amount”, it tells me I can’t pay more than the Current Balance. Grrr!

I probably should have expected that there would be a delay between when the charges were made, and when the system would allow me to pay them off. It isn’t the end of the world. But, it does kind of mess up the system I’ve had going for a while now. I don’t exactly follow a real budget; I give myself a set amount of money every week to spend on groceries, gas, and anything else I want. When it’s gone, it’s gone. Except now I can’t just look at my online banking to see what I have available to spend. I also have to look at my credit card balance. And then think about whether there are any other grocery store trips that haven’t cleared yet. And then do math…

My bank does allow me to put money into “reserve” for something, so I’m considering just moving the “spent” money into reserve, so it looks like it’s already gone. It just seems like such a pain to make a purchase, move the money to reserve, then later come back and pay off the purchase. I do so much better when everything is automated, and I don’t have to worry about it!

The rewards also aren’t as rewarding as I’d hoped. If I use my credit card at a Kroger gas station, I can save 25 cent per gallon through September. I’ve done this exactly zero times. I don’t get gas very often. I’d have to go out of my way to get to the closest gas station. And I don’t like the idea of also charging my gas. It’s one more thing to have to keep track of paying, and makes it harder to separate out my grocery and gas spending on my monthly spending updates. We are slowly earning points towards a possible quarterly rewards certificate, but it could take a really long time for us to rack up enough points to actually see a reward. Although, thankfully, the points do roll forward, so if we don’t earn enough in one quarter, we don’t lose all our points.

There is one benefit so far to having a credit card:

Credit Score as of 8/09/2016.
Credit Score as of 8/09/2016.

 

Credit score as of 7/13/2016.
Credit score as of 7/13/2016.

My credit score has gone up 10 points since I applied for a credit card. Which is good, since my credit score was the whole reason I was willing to consider getting a credit card in the first place! I have no intention of spending enough on my credit card to start chasing rewards.

I’d consider myself in the “transition phase” right now. It’s just like any other part of personal finance, be it budgeting, debt repayment, saving or investing: I have to figure out a system that works best for me! My plan right now is to give it a few months, and see how I feel. I may end up backing off to one purchase a month, instead of putting all my grocery spending on the card. Who knows? Maybe I’ll figure out something else that works even better for me. The point is, I’m wading in to something new. It doesn’t have to be perfect right off the bat!

  • Cindy W.

Comments

  1. I use the bill pay attached to my checking account to pay my credit cards to get around this problem. Then I can pay whatever amount I want.

    You could send a payment from your checking account every Friday or something so it isn’t as tedious but is then a weekly check-in.

    1. That thought hadn’t even occurred to me, which is funny, since that’s how I pay all of my other bills! You may have just saved my sanity over this whole thing!

      1. You’re welcome! Happy to help 🙂

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