Is Credit Card Debt Ever Acceptable?

Posted by Mrs Money on February 9th, 2010

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credit card delinquency
Creative Commons License photo credit: TheTruthAbout…

A few months ago we purchased a new dishwasher from Home Depot to replace the one that stopped working correctly over a year ago.  We picked out a pretty nice model; not too expensive, but much nicer than what we had before.   We got a really good deal on it because we bought it on Black Friday sale, and have been really pleased with its performance so far.  The only downfall about the situation?  We put it on a credit card and haven’t paid it off yet.

Now, before you start throwing stuff at me, I have to explain that we were able to take advantage of 0% interest, no payments for a year from our Home Depot credit card.  We have the money in the bank if we want to pay it off, but I just haven’t brought myself to do so yet.  I don’t want to see our balance go down that much, so I keep making payments on it whenever I get paid.  There’s no question on whether or not our credit cards will be paid off in a year.  It will.

I feel so guilty though.  I feel like I should just take the money out of our account and pay it off.  That would be one less thing to worry about.  At the same time though, I prefer having a larger balance in our account so I can’t bring myself to do it. I know that I’ve got money coming in from my paychecks that will go towards it, so I don’t freak out about it too much.

I got started thinking about it today, and then I wondered if it’s more acceptable to have credit card debt even if it’s at 0%.  I still have credit card debt.  I’m not completely debt free.  Sometimes I look at it like I’m not in credit card debt because I’m not paying any interest.  That seems so backwards to me.  I really do have credit card debt!  Does it make it better that I’m not paying interest on it? Mathematically, yes.  Financially? I don’t know.  I know when you look at it on paper, it’s a wash because we’ve got the debt, but we’ve got the cash to cover it as well.  It’s funny how I can look at this credit card debt and trick myself into thinking that it’s not really credit card debt.  Crazy!

What do you think: is credit card debt ever acceptable?

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24 Responses to “Is Credit Card Debt Ever Acceptable?”


  1. Karen says:

    I try to think of it as a matter or interest. If you’re earning interest on your savings and not paying interest on your credit card debt, you might as well take advantage of the year with no interest. But just make sure you pay it off by the end of the interest-free period, otherwise they retroactively apply the interest and you end up paying a year of interest anyway.

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    Mrs Money Reply:

    Karen- I agree. I feel like I’m almost “making” money by doing what I’m doing. I like using the money for free! ;)

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  2. Bryan says:

    You should always know how to estimate if you have enough money before buying something to avoid interest payments.

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    Mrs Money Reply:

    Bryan- We had enough money saved to buy the dishwasher but decided to do the no interest or payments option and just pay it off each month. :)

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  3. Jackie says:

    I think there are going to be people who think having credit card debt is acceptable, and so for them it is, assuming they can pay all their bills even if they are laid off, etc.

    But is credit card debt smart? I don’t think so. It’s risky, and it’s easy to slip into the idea of thinking that you actually have money in the bank when you actually owe that money to a credit card. It creates an illusion.

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    Mrs Money Reply:

    Jackie- I agree with everything you said. I think it’s an illusion too. I’m thankful that we have the money to pay it off if we wanted to. :)

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  4. If you have the money to pay it off, then I would say that you are just taking advantage of the 0% offer (no harm doing that).

    The only thing you have to watch out for is getting used to this – like buying furniture on 0% and other stuff.

    As long as you have the discipline, why not? I personally have never done it even if I could simply because I do not want to get into that habit. But everyone should know themselves and act accordingly.

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    Mrs Money Reply:

    Mr. Credit Card- We saved up the money for a year to buy a new dishwasher. :) I like taking advantage of the 0% offer! ;)

    I can see how people would get used to doing things like this! Sometimes I forget we’ve got this balance. Bad!

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  5. Mike Collins says:

    I think in your situation it makes sense. You’re not paying interest so there’s no harm in spreading the payments over the course of a year instead of paying it all upfront. Plus you can earn interest on the money while it’s in your account. Just be sure to pay off the balance before the year is up and you’re fine.

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    Mrs Money Reply:

    Mike- Thanks! I think it’s a good idea, and it’s nice to hear someone else agree. :)

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  6. AJ says:

    I actually have a similar situation. We have a small-ish balance on a credit card with 0% interest and as a result, I’m just not rushing to get it paid off (within the year, yes). I’d hate to see my account dwindle to pay it in full, so I also make payments. I WANT to get it paid off, but I can’t bring myself to take that chunk out of our account.

    I don’t like any credit card debt, regardless of the interest, but there’s something about that % that does affect how quickly things are paid off.

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    Mrs Money Reply:

    AJ- I don’t like any credit card debt either, but couldn’t resist the 0% for a year. I figure as long as we pay it off well before a year, we’re fine too. :)

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  7. Kacie says:

    I think self-discipline is key in this one. For me, when I had a 0% rate on a credit card, I used it. And then the next thing I knew, I was a college student with a low income and had more on my card than I had in my bank account. And it just got worse from there and it took me awhile to dig myself out.

    I’m certainly not saying that will happen to you!

    I just think carrying needless debt is a slippery slope.

    The money in your savings account earmarked for the dishwasher is giving you a false sense of security. Even if something comes up and you need to use your savings, you’ll still need to pay for that dishwasher.

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    Mrs Money Reply:

    Kacie- I totally agree. A few years ago when we got a credit card with a 0% interest rate at first with a bank, we ended up getting a new computer, mattress, and other small things on it! We shouldn’t have done it, but thankfully we did pay it off. We’ve all made mistakes. :)

    I agree about it being a false sense of security. I am sure I’ll have it paid off pretty quickly. :)

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  8. Little House says:

    I think the same way. I see it as NOT having credit card debt because I’ll pay it off before finance charges accumulate. However, I want to add a side note to Home Depot, I just received a letter today saying that they are still offering 0% purchases, but will require minimum payments on them. This is due to the new credit card act. I don’t know if this affects purchases made before the law takes effect, but it’s good to know.

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    Mrs Money Reply:

    Little House- Good! I am glad that you do the same thing. I got that letter yesterday. I think that we don’t have to make minimum payments, but I will definitely double check my bill when it comes! Thanks for the heads up. :)

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  9. You make great points financially but this issue is also an emotional and psychological issue. Obviously you are spending time and energy just thinking about it. Every time you get paid you have to take time and energy to make the payments.

    Would it completely deplete your emergency fund to pay off the dishwasher? If so, maybe you should build more of cushion first. Are you earning a significant amount of interest on the capital you are holding on to? If so you may want to delay paying off the dishwasher. Otherwise, I would just pay it off and move on. The money you don’t use to make payments will help you rebuild your savings that much faster.

    Hey, just my point of view. I hate owing, period.

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    Mrs Money Reply:

    LeanLifeCoach- I agree with you. It wouldn’t deplete our emergency fund if I paid it off. I don’t think we are earning a lot of interest on our money because rates are so low. I probably should just pay it off and forget about it. I hate owing too. :)

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  10. The 0% and no payments for a year are a trap. Most people don’t pay it off in that time and end up getting charged for back interest. It’s a gimmick the credit card companies created, and everyone falls for it. It’s a marketing gimmick. If you pay it off in that time period, you would be one of the few persons that do. :)

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    Mrs Money Reply:

    Financialbondage.org- We don’t owe very much on this card, so I’m going to be diligent about getting it paid off! I think it’s horrible they do that to unsuspecting people though! :(

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  11. how come your not approving my comments? I think they are very helpful. I would email u this question but there seems to be no contact info on the site.

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  12. Daddy Paul says:

    Is credit card debt acceptable? Only when you are in ICU and cannot get to a computer or write out a check to make the payment.
    Why do credit cards want your business so bad? Fees and interest! I was asked if 16.99 was a good rate. I said yea for the credit card company!

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    Mrs Money Reply:

    Daddy Paul- It’s really crappy how the credit card companies bully people. Makes me want to cut up all my cards!

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