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Bottom Line Up Front

  • Credit cards are great when you need to make a purchase but don’t have the funds in your bank account.
  • Just be careful not to accumulate too much credit card debt as this will make it more difficult to pay off your monthly balance.
  • There are many ways to keep your credit card spending in check so it might not damage your credit score.

Time to Read

3 minutes

April 8, 2022

When money’s tight, those plastic cards in your wallet sure seem tempting. But charging a little here and there can lead to big trouble if credit isn’t managed wisely. The last thing you want is to turn your good credit into bad credit.

Keeping Credit in Check

The best—and potentially worst—thing about credit cards is their convenience. It’s just so easy to swipe, insert or tap when you won’t feel the hit until the next billing cycle. Unlike using your bank account’s debit card, where the money is withdrawn immediately. However, too much credit card debt is tough on your monthly budget. It could also damage your credit score, making it harder or more expensive to borrow money for a home or new car.

Here are 8 tips for controlling credit card spending.

  1. Create a credit card budget. When you work on your monthly budget, include a line for paying credit card debt. Decide how much you can charge each month and stay within the limit you’ve set for yourself.
  2. Keep track. Consider using your financial institution’s app, a spreadsheet or just a piece of paper to track your credit card spending each day. Keep a running total for the billing cycle so you always know your available credit. Plan not to overspend.
  3. Review your statement each month. It’s crucial to verify your credit card statement is accurate. You’ll be able to spot and report any fraudulent charges quickly. (Navy Federal Credit Union has a Zero Liability policy for unauthorized transactions.)
  4. Maximize monthly payments. In an ideal world, you’d pay off your credit card balance each month. If that’s unrealistic, pay as much as you can to keep interest charges down. And, if you set up automatic payments, you’ll never have to worry about being late.
  5. Rethink your purchases. If you’re tempted to pay for that great purse or the latest electronic gadget, give yourself a few days to cool off. You may find that your eagerness to buy whatever it is has faded. 
  6. Have 2 cards. Divide your spending between 2 different cards—one for small, everyday purchases and one for larger purchases. This will help you budget by creating “buckets” for your different expenses.  
  7. Go card shopping. If you’re using high-interest-rate credit card accounts, consider card offers. A balance transfer to a lower-rate card might be a great option. Look for cards that offer lower rates, no annual fee or earned rewards. Some even offer warranties on purchases. Navy Federal Credit Union offers a range of credit cards to suit a variety of needs.
  8. Consider using cash. Think about giving yourself a weekly allowance in cash. Or, you could set spending limits for small purchases, like coffee or gum. Studies have shown that people spend more on a purchase when using a credit card instead of cash.

Next Steps Next Steps

  1. For help managing your finances, Navy Federal offers free financial counseling
  2. Want to work on building, rebuilding or improving your credit? Navy Federal’s Mission: Credit Confidence® Dashboard gives you all the tools you need in one place. You’ll know where your credit score stands, learn what can affect your score and test different scenarios to see how they’ll affect your score.


This content is intended to provide general information and shouldn't be considered legal, tax or financial advice. It's always a good idea to consult a tax or financial advisor for specific information on how certain laws apply to your situation and about your individual financial situation.