My Master Plan to Use Credit Cards Responsibly

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My Master Plan to Use Credit Cards Responsibly

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With our recent Costco membership renewal, my wife and I applied for, and were granted an American Express card. The reason we got the card was to save money, as we get cash back rewards for purchases made using the card. 

The deal was sweetened as the cash back percentages are higher for small business owners, and being a freelance writer happens to qualify as a small business.

Have I gone completely crazy?

For years I have said that I would never carry a credit card again. I didn't think I could ever trust myself to keep from falling back into the trap of revolving credit by paying the balance in full each month. A lack of communication with my wife, and a sense of entitlement resulted in credit card abuse resulting in $109,000 of credit card debt. 

What makes me think that this time will be any different?

We Have A Budget:  In our debt accumulation days we were free spenders, paying no attention to how much we spent. We now have a strict budget that we adhere to each and every week. We plan to continue that.

We Communicate:  We have a fantastic system in place that has my wife and me talking about our finances almost every single day. 

We Have Goals:  We have financial goals for retirement, and we know that the only way to achieve them is to stick with the spending plan we have in place.

We Have A Plan:  The straightest line between where you stand now and success is a workable plan. We have a plan that will reduce our temptation to abuse our new credit card, help us earn cash back rewards, and pay that balance in full each week.

Wait, did I just say, "Each week?" 

Yes, you read correctly; Each Week. I called American Express and confirmed that we can make as many payments to them in a month as we want. So, we came up with the following plan:

  • Gasoline purchases on Fridays
  • Grocery shopping on Saturday
  • Any restaurant purchases during the weekend
  • Payment during our regularly scheduled Sunday financial discussion

Each time we use the card for a budgeted purchase, the amount will be moved from our checking account into an unused escrow account we had left open. On Sunday evening, the full amount is put back into our checking account and a payment is made.

Every Sunday evening, our balance will be zero.

Using this plan we will make pre-designated purchases with the cards that are within our budget. Making the payment quickly will help prevent us from deciding to use the funds for something else, as well as keeping our balance at zero. 

What do you think, will our plan work? Or, given our history are we playing with fire and just asking for trouble?

Related Links:

Why I Will Never Use Credit Cards Again!

Success by Budgeting Two Ways

It's Time to Start Building for the Future

Travis Pizel, debt management plan customer with leading provider of debt relief, CareOne Services, Inc. Travis Pizel

Travis is a contributing writer for the A Straight Talk on Debt blog. He is also a very active member of the CareOne community forums. Travis is currently enrolled in a CareOne Debt Management Plan (DMP). Travis candidly shares his personal journey to pay off his debt and the tips he's learned along the way. As a father and husband he provides a unique perspective on balancing debt, finances, and family in Minnesota. You can also read more from Travis on the Enemy of Debt blog, where he is a featured blogger. Compensated Blogger for CareOne Debt Relief Services.

To connect with Travis on Google+ click the

You can follow Travis on Twitter @DebtChronicles


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  • Hi Travis,  great article.  I'm a working on a product that would automate the process you are using for your credit cards, so you can get all the security and benefits of credit with the financial responsibility of debit - I would love to talk to you more and get your feedback.



  • You have my curiosity, Liran - look for an email from me!

  • I want to say, "Both".  Your plan can work, but you are playing with fire, and you know it.  I think as long as you are blogging, you will be okay.  That helps to keep you on track.  But if you and your wife find yourselves skipping a budget meeting here or there, or not paying the card in full one week, it might be the time to let it go.  The rewards aren't worth it at that point.  Good luck!

  • You're right, Sassy Mamaw, I know I'm playing with fire - and I hope that I continue to remind myself of that to prevent myself from getting burned.  I like your idea of evaluating how we're doing with the strictness of our plan...if we're not following it, time to dump it and go back to cash/debit only!

  • Hey Travis,

    I think your plan is great. I too, decided to keep one credit card open during my DMP, for business expenses only, and it has worked out fine. I think the success of your plan will depend on simplicity and each of you just having one card available. It is so much easier to manage debt when you have one number to juggle.  The bottom line is that you actually have a plan, that is the first step. I believe that your communication will allow you to execute the plan and you will be fine. Good Luck.

  • @badkirt - Communication (as with anything related to finance) is definitely going to be a major component in determining whether this works or not.  If we can be disciplined, and be on the same page with how much we've spent on the cards (not to mention in lock step with WHEN we're going to use the card) and how much we have to pay each Sunday night.  If we can do that, we've got a chance!!!

  • Thanks for the tips. These are really very helpful to use the credit card responsibly.

  • Really very helpful tips. I hope people using these tips to use their credit card correctly and responsibly.

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