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Financial Planner: Expert Money Advice

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My Credit Cards

Q. Should I stop using credit cards?

A. Not necessarily. Some advisers suggest hiding credit cards under the mattress during tough times, and, indeed, wielding a debit card has become a popular alternative. But using your debit card exclusively has disadvantages -- fraud and error protections aren't the same -- and credit cards can be part of a responsible spending plan. They can also help you establish a solid credit history. "Unfortunately, some people misuse credit cards by thinking, 'I'll do this now and get myself out of it later,'" Stone says. "But balances grow, and these people are in trouble before they know it." So treat your credit card as if it's a debit card, recording each transaction and subtracting it from your bank balance. Then pay your bill in full each month.