To say that many Americans rely on their credit cards is an understatement. There are more than 609.8 million credit cards currently in use by U.S. consumers, according to CreditCards.com, and the average credit card related debt per household in this country is $15,956.
For the banks and financial institutions that issue credit cards, billions of dollars are earned annually, thanks to Americans misusing or abusing their credit cards and being charged excessive fees and interest. Annual fees, late payment fees, over credit limit fees, cash advance or ATM fees, and balance transfer fees are among the charges people often see on their credit card statements, in addition to standard interest charges.
Properly managing a credit card account can dramatically reduce some of these fees. Ideally, as a credit card holder, it’s in your best interest to pay off your credit card balance at the end of each billing cycle in order to avoid interest charges and other fees. However, for most of us, carrying a credit card balance from month to month, on one or more credit cards, has become the norm and a financial necessity.
Keeping track of when credit card payments need to be made, making sure you make at least the minimum monthly payment on time, and working toward paying off your credit card debt should be part of your ongoing personal finance strategy. To make this process easier and more convenient, there are a handful of useful apps available for the iPhone or iPad.
Ways an iOS Mobile Device Can Help You Manage Credit Cards
Many credit card companies, banks, and financial institutions now offer their own proprietary apps for managing credit cards issued by their institution. Depending on the app, you can sign into your credit card account from anywhere via the Internet, access your up-to-date balance information, quickly determine your available credit, learn when your next payment is due, and discover what the minimum payment will be for that billing cycle.
Also from your iOS mobile device, it’s possible to access details about each recent credit card purchase and transaction, and with a few taps on your iPhone or iPad’s screen, make online credit card payments directly from your checking account.
At the very least, using the free app offered by many credit card issuers can help you avoid late payment fees and over credit limit fees, while making it convenient to make your monthly payments and track your credit card spending.
If your credit card offers some type of rewards, such as cash back or the ability to earn airline frequent flier miles, these same apps can be used to manage and/or often redeem your rewards.
To determine if your credit card company offers a free app for managing your account, visit the App Store and within the Search field, enter the name of your credit card issuer or bank.
Capital One, Citibank, Chase, Amex, Discover, Bank of America, U.S. Bank, TD Bank, Wells Fargo, PNC, U.S. Bank, Barclays Bank, and countless others all offer free apps that allow you utilize mobile online banking to manage your credit card account(s), and in some cases, your checking and savings accounts as well from the same app.
Just like when performing online banking tasks from your primary computer, managing a credit card account from your iOS mobile device is a secure process that requires you to create a username and password to access your account.
One huge benefit to using many of these apps is that you can set up automated alerts that remind you when to make payments, when specific transactions are cleared, when pre-set automatic monthly payments are made to a merchant, and/or when you’re about to reach your credit limit, for example.
Alerts can be custom-programmed from within the app and be sent to your mobile device via email, text message, or through messages within the app that can be displayed within Notification Center. For many people, simply remembering to make their credit card payments on time can save them hundreds of dollars per month in late fees, and being warned when you’re about to reach your credit limit can help you avoid high over-limit fees.
American Express and Discover Offer Their Own iPad Apps
As an American Express card holder, membership has its privileges, and one of them is being able to use the company’s proprietary iPad app. Amex for iPad (free) allows you to manage all aspects of your AmEx credit card account(s).
For example, using this intuitive app, you can schedule a payment, check your balances, view your recent and pending charges, search through your transactions based on keywords, view the full details for any transaction, view special offers for cardholders, view your payment history, and utilize your Membership Rewards points. The app works exclusively on the iPad and requires an Internet connection.
Meanwhile, the free Discover for iPad app makes it easier for Discover cardholders to manage all aspects of their credit card account. Using this app, you can view your account summary, balance, and payment information anytime and from virtually anywhere, determine your available credit, schedule an online payment, and see your Cashback Bonus balance. Using the app’s built-in Money Messenger feature (which is powered by PayPal), it’s even easy to send cash to just about anyone, anywhere in the world, right from your iPhone or iPad.
Let Your iOS Device Help You Manage and Pay Off Your Credit Card Debit
One of the key strategies to becoming debt free is to take a proactive and responsible approach to managing your credit card accounts. If you have multiple credit cards accounts with different financial institutions or banks, a single app from one bank or financial institution will not allow you to effectively manage all of your credit cards. To do this, consider using an independently developed app designed specifically for this purpose.
Credit Card Expense Manager ($14.99) is an iPhone app (that also works on the iPad) designed to simultaneously manage all of your credit card accounts from a single app. From one screen, you can see your credit situation, how much credit is available on each card, and view your overall credit utilization.
The Credit Card Expense Manager app automatically downloads account-specific information for each credit card account, so you can also view detailed transaction summaries. Using the calculators that are built into the app, it’s possible to figure out how much a particular purchase will ultimately cost you (including interest) if you pay for it using a credit card, and plan to pay it off over time, based on the interest rate a specific credit card charges.
Instead of just helping you manage your credit card accounts, the Debt Manager app ($1.99) for the iPhone and iPad utilizes the Debt Snowball method to show you exactly how to efficiently pay off your debts in the fastest and least expensive way possible, whether you want to pay off the lowest or highest balances first, or focus on first paying off your highest interest credit cards.
In addition to helping you understand your credit card debt using detailed charts and graphs, the app helps you work through various “what if” scenarios to determine how to more efficiently pay down your credit card balances each month.
Another app that’s designed to help you pay off your credit card debt, as opposed to simply managing your various credit card accounts, is the free Credit Card Calc app for iPhone or iPad. By entering basic information about your credit card debt into the app, you can calculate how long and how much it will cost to pay off your debt if you only pay the minimum payment due each month, or if you pay a fixed amount each month that’s above the minimum payment. You also have the option to select a payoff period, and then calculate what your monthly payments will need to be, based on the interest rate and other fees associated with the credit card account.
Use Your iPhone as a Credit Card
Several companies, including Starbucks and Cumberland Farms, now offer free apps that allow you to use your iPhone to pay for purchases in a way that’s actually faster and more convenient than swiping a traditional credit card.
In reality, these apps link to an existing credit card, checking, or savings account, and allow you to pay for purchases by holding the iPhone’s screen up to a merchant’s cash register. As this payment method catches on, more and more vendors will no doubt begin to accept it, eliminating the need to carry traditional credit cards in your wallet, since all of the necessary data will be stored securely on your iPhone.
Based on your personal financial situation, if you want or need to rely on credit cards, using specialized iPhone or iPad apps to help you manage your credit card accounts will make it easier to be responsible when it comes to paying off your debt and avoiding unnecessary fees and charges.
Using the Safari web browser that’s built into your iOS device, visit the CreditCards.com website to quickly search for the best credit card deals, apply for a new credit card, and research ways to cut your interest rates by utilizing balance transfers between credit cards.
You can also access the Bankrate.com website and tap on the Credit Card tab at the top of the site’s home page, in order to access a handful of useful online-based calculators that will help you more efficiently manage your credit card debt. For example, there’s a free debt consolidation calculator, true cost of paying minimum calculator, and a credit card balance transfer calculator, in addition to tools that can help you pay off your credit cards more efficiently.
Jason R. Rich (http://www.JasonRich.com) is an avid iPhone and iPad user, and is the bestselling author of more than 54 books, including Your iPad At Work: 2nd Edition (Que), iPad and iPhone Tips and Tricks (Que), Using iPhone iOS 5 Edition (Que) and iPad 2 Essentials (Que). He’s also a frequent contributor to numerous national magazines, major daily newspapers and popular websites. You can follow him on Twitter (@JasonRich7).