7 Tricks to Stop Using Your Credit Cards

You know your debt is rising, but you just can't seem to stop using your credit cards. It's easy to fall into habits of reaching for your credit card every time you have an impulse to buy something. If you're also using that same credit card for everyday expenses, you could risk building up debt. If you're starting to drown in your debt, you have to stop using your credit cards before the debt completely takes you under.

Lock Them Up

Padlocked credit card of keyboard
Peter Dazeley/Getty Images 

The "out of sight, out of mind" approach might work for you. Put your credit cards somewhere that takes an effort to get them—in a safe, file cabinet, the back of your sock drawer, anywhere that's inconvenient. Keeping your credit cards out of your immediate reach will help control your "need" to use them. Some people even take the term "frozen account" literally by freezing their credit cards in a bowl of water. Whatever the method, the key is to force yourself to take extra time to consider the purchase.

Leave Them at Home

You might not have to take drastic measures like literally freezing your credit card in a bowl of water, but you can easily take it out of your wallet before you go shopping. If you get the urge to buy something, you'll either have to use cash or come back for the item once you have your credit card—and after you've had plenty of time to second-guess the purchase.

Close Them

One call to your cardholder is all it takes to inactivate your credit card. That'll ensure you don't use it for impulse buys. Keep in mind, closing credit card accounts can hurt your credit score, so make sure you aren't closing a card you should leave open. However, it's better to close your credit card and suffer a temporary credit setback than to go deeper into debt trying to maintain your credit score.

Shred Them

If you're worried about the credit score setback, you could simply reach for a pair of scissors. Cut the card up into small pieces so the credit card number can't be guessed by identity thieves. Or better yet, shred it with an office shredder. The card will be unusable, but if/when you improve your spending habits, you'll be able to get a new one from the card issuer. Just remember that shredding your card won't do anything to address any debt you may have already built up on the account.

Shock Therapy

Have you ever thought about the amount of money you spend on interest payments each year? Or the length of time it will take to pay off your credit cards? Sometimes taking a long-view look at the numbers will shock you into putting your credit cards away for good.

For example, assuming monthly payments of $25, a $1,000 balance with 14% interest would take 4.5 years to pay off. If the timeline isn't enough to shock you, take the total price tag into account—you'll have paid an extra $347.55 in interest by the time you pay off the original $1,000 purchase.

Credit card statements now include the amount of interest you've paid so far this year and the amount of interest you'll pay if you're just making the minimum payment. Before you let your debt pile up with impulsive buys, think about all the other things you could eventually buy with the money saved from avoiding interest payments.

Reward Yourself

Positive reinforcement goes a long way in building a habit. This isn't just true with training a new puppy—it's true with ourselves, as well. Establish goals for yourself and allow yourself to indulge if you reach them. For example, every week that you don't use your credit card, you could treat yourself to a dinner date with a loved one. The challenge will be in coming up with indulgences that are inexpensive or free, otherwise, you risk erasing the benefits of your savings goals.

Old-Fashioned Self Control

Being able to tell yourself "no" is a skill that goes beyond using credit cards. The same self-discipline that gets you to work on time each morning can also be used to stop using your credit cards. Think twice about swiping your credit card just like you'd think twice about pressing snooze just one more time.