My first thought about credit cards for seniors with limited income is, if you don’t have one now and you’re doing OK with your purchasing and bank account, don’t get a credit card at all. They are convenient and the lure of the TV commercials make them seem like some kind of magic gifts of unlimited spending. The come-on, usually aimed at people with limited incomes, such as seniors, low-income workers and college students, implies that using credit cards postpones debts into some vague future you’ll never have to worry about. Live for today, and let tomorrow take care of itself. However, tomorrow is eventually pay-back day for the credit card companies.
My spouse and I, both retirees, are trying to gradually wean ourselves away from using credit cards. After years of running up card totals every month to as much as $2,500, we’ve now got it down below $1,000. We do our best to pay cash for groceries, department store purchases, gasoline and other everyday needs. What most people don’t realize or try to ignore is that many credit cards charge an average of one and half percent per month on unpaid balances. That doesn’t sound like so much, does it?
Well, if you let your balance go unpaid and building up debt for a year, you’ll be paying 18 percent interest until you do get around to paying it off. If you don’t, like Mafia loans, the interest keeps compounding, and when you wake up several years later after letting the balance build up by small, inadequate payments, you’ll find you’re owing 200 percent for every original purchase or bill you let fester unpaid.
We still maintain our MasterCard account, and find it convenient, at least until we can completely free ourselves from using any kind of delayed payment system. MasterCard, as well as Visa and other credit cards, are usually offered in conjunction with a bank, other financial institution or community membership organization, such as college alumnis, AARP and AAA. Because the card companies and their benefits change frequently, various financial reporting agencies publish monthly lists of what they consider the most inexpensive cards at the time.
If you’re shopping for a credit card, it may be worth your time to investigate all the deals offered, or if you have the time and patience, you can jump from one credit card to another when you find what you consider a better deal. If you do, be sure to check on the offers, including whether they charge annual fees … these can be as high as $150 … or not. Also, some will entice you in with the deal: no annual fees for the first six months. Like buying a car or signing up for the Marines, be sure to read the fine print.
Below are some of the most recent I found, attractive because all charge no annual fee charge for their basic services. Their interest rates are on the lower side, and they could be worthwhile for seniors with limited income to investigate. As indicated, some cost as much as 1.5% a month on the unpaid balance. You can get full information on all credit cards by going to their websites and/or calling for information on their toll-free phone numbers. Remember some offer amounts and benefits can be temporary, set up as enticements to get new members to enroll. Also, whenever you’re shopping for a new credit card, always ask what exclusive benefits are there for senior members, particularly if you’re on a very limited budget.
1. Discover More Card: Offers 5% Cashback Bonus for specific purchases, including travel, restaurants, gasoline and movies. For all other purchases, the deal is 1% return.
2. Citi Home Rebate Platinum Select MasterCard: Offers 6% rebate on home utilities, internet and satellite service, and 1% on other purchases.
3. Chase Platinum Visa Card: Free travel services for auto insurance and international travel accident insurance.
4, Citi Platinum Select Card: No APR (Annual Percentage Rate) for 12 months.
5. Blue from American Express: No APR charges for up to 15 months.