10 Terrifying Fears We’ve Had About Credit Cards (And How to Ease Them)

A woman purchases something with her credit card online.
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Hints of Halloween have hung in the air this entire month. Which puts me on edge.

Yes, I’m a scaredy cat. But also, I’m not fond of little boys in Jason masks running up behind me with a T-ball bat in hand. Standing. Staring. Saying nothing. (Yes, this happened a few weeks ago, and I’m still spooked.)

Then there’s the wisps of ghosts and goblins my neighbors have suspended from their trees and porches. A slight breeze always catches them as I walk the dog around the block at night.

Then there’s credit cards.

WalletHub recently explored folks’ fears — on a financial level. It surveyed 530 people (so, no, it’s not totally representative) to rank the five scariest aspects of credit cards. These include:

  • Fraud (33%)
  • Interest rates (31%)
  • Overspending (19%)
  • Losing them (11%)
  • Fine print (5%)

We decided to rank our own credit card fears because, yes, they’re so real:

Our 10 Greatest Credit Card Fears — Exposed

Warning! Reader discretion is advised. You’re getting a glimpse into a Penny Hoarder’s brain here, deepest paranoias and all. It gets graphic.

  1. Not paying card(s) off in time. Even though we’ve set up automatic payments. And those automatic payments have proven to work for months now. We still have to double and triple-check that, yes, our card is paid. Or we might just opt to manually pay the balance off before it’s due, because why risk it?
  1. Sleep-talking to Alexa and ordering 100 useless items. Or: Getting a little tipsy one night and taking Zappos by storm.
  1. Watching our credit scores drop by hundreds of points. Even though we’ve been perfectly responsible spenders. (I’ve had at least two nightmares about this, waking up in a cold sweat.)
  1. Scrolling through our statements, only to find a dozen random charges made across the country. Which then requires sitting on the phone with the credit card company (the horror!) explaining that, no, we did not buy a Nutribullet or rent a $500 professional carpet-cleaning machine thing. (True stories.)
  1. Finding our rewards points gone. Vanished. Into thin air. Without a trace. We’d been saving those to pay for our next vacation!
  1. Missing something in the fine print and finding out we’ve signed our lives away to insane fees. Because even though we should hang onto every word in the fine print, confession: We don’t.
  1. Signing the drink receipt at the bar and sliding it back to the bartender, with our credit card still with it. We’ve basically just invited them to have some fun on our tab. And now we have to hang out heads in shame as we tell the credit card representative we lost our card at 1 a.m. Yes, you’ve guessed what we’ve been up to…
  1. Getting approved for a higher credit limit. At first, this sounds awesome, but it’s also terrifying, because are we really that responsible? That’s a lot of power.
  1. Forgetting to let the credit card company know we’re traveling and feeling embarrassed and helpless when the waiter lets us know the card doesn’t work. We totally, definitely have money. We swear!
  1. Having your card rejected at the grocery store. “Let me try again. I swear I’ve paid it off.” And it doesn’t work. And the machine keeps buzzing in that disapproving way. And the line behind us stacks up. And we start sweating.

How to Ease Some of These Credit Card Fears

Since signing up for a credit card, I’ve taken a few precautions to ensure I keep my finances on track — and remember to pay my card off each month.

Let me share.

1. I Keep a Close Eye on My Credit

I didn’t check my credit score until after college. But now, I’ve built this simple task into my monthly routine.

I use Credit Sesame, a free service that gives me my score and delivers a graded credit analysis. This helps me see what I can do to improve my credit score. It also notes my accounts with negative marks as well as my total debt balance.

I’ve also set up monthly notifications, so if anything looks off, I’ll get an email.

2. I Signed Up for Spending and Payment Alerts

Sometimes I just need a gentle nudge, which is what Trim offers.

Trim is a cute little robo-advisor that’ll outline all your transactions. You can sort them by the most recent or the largest.

I’ve also set up personal alerts. Through Facebook Messenger, Trim notifies me when it’s payday (yay!), if I’m facing any overdraft or late fees or if there are any large transactions (over $100). It’ll also notify me if my credit card usage is too high or send me balance updates.

I can also add personalized reminders, for say, when utilities are due, so I’ll never forget.

Thank goodness for robot reminders, or else I’d probably have way more nightmares about my credit score plummeting — just like my heart does when a seemingly innocent trick-or-treater rings my doorbell.

Carson Kohler (@CarsonKohler) is a junior writer at The Penny Hoarder. You just got a deep look into the inner-workings of her brain. That, in of itself, is slightly scary.