We received a question from Chase who asked if it's okay to use zero percent credit cards as a short-term loan. Chase explained that his house is paid off and he only has one year left on his car loan.
My first thought is that Chase is in a great financial position, with no major debts other than the car loan. Assuming he is a financial mutant and has been making smart financial decisions, he should also have a healthy emergency reserve in place. Ideally, this reserve should be equivalent to three to six months of living expenses, or 12 to 18 months if he's close to retirement.
So, my question is, why would Chase need a short-term loan when he has a stable financial situation? Since he doesn't have any debts to service, his cash flow should be sufficient. Moreover, he can tap into his emergency reserve for an interest-free loan, and pay it back over time.
I'm not convinced that utilizing a zero percent credit card interest rate is a smart choice in this situation. Sure, it sounds appealing to co-create an arbitrage situation and take advantage of banks offering free money. But as the saying goes, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
From a time and energy perspective, it's important to consider whether it's worth investing your resources in something that may not have a significant payoff. Instead, I suggest focusing on wealth-building activities that will have a greater impact in the long run.
Sure, there are successful bloggers and other people who earn points for travel and other things by opening up credit cards and maximizing their benefits. But in my opinion, this falls under the category of "getting busy doing nothing." While it may look good on paper, it's not always the smartest strategy.
Furthermore, opening up multiple credit cards to take advantage of zero percent interest loans can create unnecessary complexity in your finances. For instance, credit card issuers can change their rules, and you may suddenly be stuck with an annual fee or a higher interest rate. In some cases, you may not even be aware of these changes until it's too late, and it could impact your credit score.
At the end of the day, I recommend paying off your debts and focusing on investing. I've never had anyone tell me that carrying a lot of zero percent credit card balances helped them achieve wealth. It's important to remember that time is a valuable resource, and you don't want to waste it on activities that won't help you achieve your financial goals.
In summary, if you're in a similar financial situation to Chase, I suggest avoiding short-term loans altogether, and instead focus on building your emergency reserve and investing your money in smart, long-term strategies.