A reader wants someone to tell her she's wrong about credit cards.
Question: Started dating a beautiful woman who might be the real thing. Problem: She buys everything in cash, doesn’t even own a credit card, and gets testy with me for owning a half-dozen cards. But I always pay my balance and score a boatload of points. How do I tell her she’s crazy without making her go crazy?
— Greg in California
Howard Dvorkin CPA answers…
First of all, if you believe this woman is the “real thing,” take some advice from a married man: Never tell your future wife she’s “crazy.” Even if you’re right, it won’t end well for you.
Second of all, you girlfriend isn’t crazy. I agree with her. Thirdly, you’re not crazy, either. I agree with you, too. Let me explain.
Why you shouldn’t use credit cards
It was just a few months ago that a husband asked me about the opposite problem — his wife had 14 credit cards. I quoted from my second book, Power Up…
“Learning to live without a credit card is an integral part of financial empowerment. The lessons you discover will add to your building blocks that will eventually lead to your financial independence.”
Because your girlfriend has to physically hand over hard-earned cash when she wants to buy something, she feels that purchase at a gut level that you don’t, Greg. That may annoy you now, but should you get married, you might appreciate that frugality. I’m sure you’re aware that money is one of the common causes of stress and fighting in a marriage — to such a degree, some couples keep their finances completely separate.
Why you should use credit cards
You have an equally compelling argument, Greg. You can rack up the points as long as you continue to pay off your balance each month. Unfortunately, too many Americans fall into the trap of spending too much just to earn a few more points.
I suggest you maximize your points by thinking about what’s really important to you. Check out Which Credit Card Points Fit My Personality? So many cards offer points these days, you can be discerning.
How to resolve this dispute
While I’m a CPA and credit counselor, I’ve learned a few things about relationships along the way. Your situation, Greg, is an easy one to fix. Where you see a problem, I see synergy and specialties. Your girlfriend can be the “bad cop” who keeps spending in check, while you’re the “good cop” who can make those reasoned purchases with a card that returns maximum points.
If you draw up a combined budget for the both of you, showing what your financial life would look like after the wedding, you might both be surprised at how much you’ll save on the front end and earn on the back end. Try it, and tell me what happens.
Have a debt question?
Email your question to firstname.lastname@example.org and Howard Dvorkin will review it. Dvorkin is a CPA, chairman of Debt.com, and author of two personal finance books, Credit Hell: How to Dig Yourself Out of Debt and Power Up: Taking Charge of Your Financial Destiny.