Welcome to America, the
land of excessive spending! Well, it's not really that bad,
you just need to be careful when it comes to buying things in the
United States. With so many products and "goodies" out there,
easily accessible to everyone, it can be far too easy to suddenly
wind up in debt to a credit card company.
So, what can you do to
protect yourself, and your hard-earned money? There's lots of
Using a Credit Card
First, avoid using
credit cards whenever possible. Yes, they are easy to get, and
yes it's convenient to swipe the "plastic" when you're shopping, but
trying to pay back the interest rates that many card companies
charge can quickly turn a small purchase into a big waste of money.
Credit Card companies in the United States are notorious for luring
in customers with their "Platinum" (or other valuable metal) offers
which promise lots for little or no fee to you. Unfortunately,
hidden deep in the fine print on the contract they often manage to
have some clause that allows them to charge you a obscene interest
rate, or perhaps insurmountable late-fees if you are even 2 days
late with your payment.
Cash or Check?
Use cash or check
whenever you can. Obviously everywhere will accept cash, but
be careful how much you carry on your person. While the risks
to your safety are minimal in Cedar Rapids, it's a good habit to not
carry hundreds of dollars on you, especially if you happen to drop
your wallet or purse somewhere and lose all the money in it.
Usually people carry enough money with them to make any immediate
purchases (gas, food, etc), and also have a check-book with them to
pay for any larger purposes that they make. Checks are much
safer to use if you're making a large purchase, and if you lose them
you just have to call your bank or credit union and have them cancel
all the checks.
Automatic Teller Machines (ATM's)
Machines (ATM's) can be found in or near almost any place you go in
Cedar Rapids, or the Unites States for that matter, and are an
excellent way to withdraw cash in an emergency situation. In
fact, Kirkwood has several right here on campus from Linn-Area
Credit Union. To use an ATM you need to become a member of a
bank and obtain an ATM or Debit card, which really is a simple
process. Linn-Area for example offers free ATM sign-up, while
other banks may charge you a small fee ($1-2/month) for the service.
Also, if you use an ATM card, look for machines with your banks name
on it, or a sticker that says "Privileged Status" on them, these
machines will not charge you the transaction fees that many machines
Keep Transaction Records
Finally, no matter
what you do, be sure to keep records of all your income and
purchases. These are especially important if you ever use a
credit card, or your Debit/ATM card or checking account. If
there is ever a conflict over a charge on any of your accounts, you
will have proof as to what you did buy, and what you didn't.
Also, records are needed when it comes time to pay taxes every year
(if you have to), so its better to be safe than sorry.