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Credit Cards 101

Our world is a little bit different now and so is the way you pay – less cash, more credit cards. But before you sign up for a credit card for the free stress ball or the chance to win an iPad, it is important to know why you should consider a credit card in the first place, how to choose one that is right for you, and understand how to use it.


Why Consider a Credit Card?

If you’ve been living that cash life you may have noticed a shift in preference for people and availability at retailers for a contactless transaction. If you’ve never had a credit card, you’ve probably had to rely on your parents or your friends to hold that hotel room for your annual girls trip or to simply complete your Amazon order. Here are some of the benefits of having a credit card in your wallet:

  • Opportunity to build credit
  • Make purchases online
  • Handle emergencies or unplanned expenses
  • Contactless transactions
  • Ability to put a hold on a hotel room or car rental
  • Ability to earn points and redeem for cash back, travel or merchandise
  • Purchase protection and extended warranty

Before Adding a Credit Card to Your Cart

Stress ball or iPad aside, choosing the card that is right for you is the most important part of the process. Credit cards offer a variety of different features with the key differences between being interest rates, the fees and the rewards and benefits. This page does a great job of breaking down the different factors you should consider when choosing a card:

Compare credit card interest rates

The interest rate, which is the price you pay for borrowing money, may be an important factor to you if you regularly carry a balance. Although, spoiler alert, in the tips for using a credit card section below, I’d recommend always paying your credit card bill in full on-time and avoiding carrying a balance if possible.

Compare credit card rewards and benefits

Many cards offer benefits like rental or travel insurance and rewards programs that allow you to earn and redeem points for cash back, statement balance credit, travel and accommodations or merchandise to list a few popular examples. When comparing, you’ll want to think about which are appealing to you, how often you’d use them and understand how you accumulate points and any limitations to earning the rewards and benefits. This article also includes a few examples of estimating the value of rewards and benefits to help guide you.

Compare credit card fees

Credit card fees can include anything from the annual fee (which usually means the card offers extra rewards and benefits or a lower interest rate), to cash advance fees, to inactive account fees, and more. When choosing a card, make a list of all the fees that could apply and understand which you have to pay and which ones you can avoid by learning how to use your card properly.

There is a lot to think about when choosing the card that is right for you, especially since there are so many options out there. If at any point you’re feeling overwhelmed, I would recommend reaching out to friends, family or a trusted financial advisor to get their opinions and experiences!

Tips for Using a Credit Card

Whether you are a new card user or have had a card for years, here are some tips to keep your credit card game strong:

Pay your bills on-time, in full – not just the minimum

This is something I wish I would have known when I got my very first credit card. Without knowing any better, I thought paying the minimum was standard and I’m still not quite over the fact I let my hard earned dollars go to interest simply because I didn’t understand that I would be charged on carrying a balance.

You will never pay interest if you are paying your bill on time and in full each month. Paying in full can also help you spend within your means. Want to know the real cost of carrying a balance on your credit card? Check out this blog for a breakdown of the actual cost and even better, a tool to figure out how long it might take you to pay off your balance!

Make it a routine to pay attention to your credit card bill

Review your charges – this way you can view and adjust your spending habits as well as report unauthorized charges. Rest assured, many cards have you covered with “Zero Liability” if that were to happen!

Use your card to build credit

Lenders and credit card issuers want to see how you use credit for future lending. Your credit score is determined by how you manage your card, so make purchases, make payments and take advantage of card benefits and rewards. If you display a pattern of being able to pay off your card with no issues each month over a long period of time, lenders will trust you more and will be able to offer you more credit for bigger purchases (ie: house). To learn more about the importance of credit, check out this blog for the building blocks of credit and how to use it responsibly.

Take advantage of the card benefits and rewards

You will want a card that gives you something in return – so understand the card benefits, rewards and features and take advantage! For example, if you’re earning points – use them! I personally love to use my points towards flights to feed my travel bug but while I’ve had travel on pause, I’ve been taking advantage of redeeming my points for cashback straight into my savings account! Some other options for points redemption can include a statement credit or spending them on merchandise items like gift cards to stores and restaurants. What does your card offer?

Sharing is caring, what other tips would you suggest to keep your card game strong? Comment below!

The Great Buy vs. Lease Debate

It’s one of the most hotly contested debates of our time: Is buying or leasing a new vehicle the way to go?

Depending on who you ask, you’ll typically get a passionate and definitive answer based on personal experience. This blog weighs the pros and cons for each alternative and attempts to crown a victor. Spoiler alert: it’s not as clear cut as you may think. 


I currently drive a 2011 Ford Escape that has been an absolute dream for the past nine years. For about a year and a half, I’ve been contemplating trading it in for an upgrade but I’ve really enjoyed not having to worry about a monthly vehicle payment. The thought of trading in my SUV remained dormant in the back of my mind until one day when I was driving on Ring Road (Regina’s controlled highway that circles the city) and it hit me!

No, it actually hit me. Mid-transit, my hood flew up and smashed my windshield which left me travelling at 80 km/h on Regina’s main expressway without being able to see in front of me. Once I somehow safely navigated my way to the side of the road and got over the shock of what had just transpired, the first thing that went through my head was “it’s time for a new vehicle.”

In the past, I’ve always bought my vehicles (because that’s what Dad had always told me to do) but I’ve noticed that leasing is growing in popularity. Before I jumped on the same path, I decided to do my research to figure out the answer to the age-old question: “lease or buy?” Let’s break down both sides:

The Case for: Buying

  • No limits on the amount of kilometers you drive. Drive it off the lot and into the ground if you want! When you lease, you have a maximum amount of annual kilometers that you have to stay under without paying a penalty.
  • Your monthly payments will likely be higher than leasing, but you are paying to own. Eventually you will pay off your vehicle and will eliminate your monthly payment. I just spent five years without a vehicle payment and it made an enormous difference to my budget.
  • Freedom to customize, sell or trade in whenever you want. The vehicle is yours so feel free to put in those customized velvet seat covers to match the fuzzy dice hanging from your rear view mirror. You can’t do that under a lease.
  • No transactional fees. Depending on who you are leasing from, they may charge a “transaction fee” when you exchange your vehicle or buy it out at the end of your lease. Dealerships will claim it is to cover the paperwork that needs to be done, but these can usually be negotiated down before you sign your lease. Leasing will also require you to purchase a package policy on your insurance so be prepared for that expense as well.
  • Cheaper in the LONG run. Assuming your vehicle doesn’t require a ton of repairs once your warranty runs out and we’re operating in a stable market, purchasing is typically cheaper in the long run. Although your monthly payments will be more expensive compared to leasing, you will likely only need to pay for maintenance once you’ve paid off your vehicle. On the other hand, leasers will always have a monthly payment. In addition, you’ll be able to sell or trade-in your vehicle which will earn you a big chunk of change towards your next vehicle.
  • You don’t always have to buy new. Buying can be A LOT cheaper if you buy a used vehicle. Depending on how used the vehicle is, you will be incurring more risk for repairs but if you do your due-diligence, this can drastically boost your budget.

The Case for: Leasing

  • Cheaper in the SHORT term. Your monthly payments will be lower than financing a new vehicle. This allows you some more capacity to cover your monthly expenses and the ability to drive a newer vehicle without busting your budget.
  • Better warranty protection. Last year, I had to pay a couple hundred dollars to have my spark plugs changed. Apparently this can be done for much cheaper if you know how to do it yourself but if you are like me and feel incredibly accomplished after hanging a picture frame – finding coverage to make these repairs is definitely the best route. When leasing, the only thing you’ll need to worry about is regular upkeep (oil changes, car washes, etc.) and any damage subject to your deductible if you cause an accident.
  • New car every 2-4 years. When you finance a car, it will typically take you 3-5 years to pay it off and then you’ll likely spend another couple of years enjoying a life with no monthly car payment. By the time you are ready to trade-in your car, you’ll be craving the newest features. After driving without them for ten years, I would be tempted to take heated seats and a backup camera over a functional airbag at this point. A lease allows you to drive a new vehicle every 2-4 years which will help quiet your hankerings to sacrifice safety for comfort.
  • No money up front. When you are purchasing or financing a new vehicle, you’ll likely need to put down a big chunk of money in order to unlock smaller interest rates and shrink your monthly payments to a point where they won’t eat you alive. Buying instead of leasing typically takes more time as you’ll need to save for a while before you are ready to put a down payment on a car. You should obviously take some time to ensure leasing a new car fits your budget, but once you’ve made that decision, not having to pay any money up front can put you in the drivers seat of your new vehicle much faster.
  • Tax break if you are using it for business purpose. There are some tax advantages if you are leasing a car and using it for business purposes. Turbo Tax Canada breaks down these benefits in this article, but you can deduct the business percentage of your lease payments on your income tax. For instance, if you own your own business, your annual lease payment is $4,000 and you use your car for 75% business use – you may be able to deduct $3,000 on your annual tax return.
  • Easier to budget and no unexpected, expensive trips to the service department. I mentioned my spark plug struggle above, but that costly experience came when I took my post-warranty vehicle to the dealership to check out why my rear-windshield wiper fluid squirter (I’m quite confident this isn’t the technical term) was not working. This quick trip turned into an unexpected $2,000 purchase that included new brake pads, spark plugs, a new wiper squirter (again, not the technical term) and a few other things. This unexpected cost not only ruined my day, but it completely threw off my monthly budget and sentenced me to a month of eating ramen noodles. Because you’re always under warranty while leasing, your monthly payments are expected and you don’t need to worry about unexpected issues that will quickly burn a hole in your wallet and your budget.
  • No trade-in hassles at the end of the lease. Whether you are privately selling your car or looking to trade it in, it’s a huge hassle. Assuming you aren’t looking to buy-out the rest of your vehicle and you kept your vehicle in good condition, the end of your lease is quite hassle free. If you are continuing with a new lease, all you have to do is drive up with your old vehicle and drive off with a new one.

The Verdict: It Depends.

I know, I know – that’s the answer that nobody likes but it’s true. The good news is that there really is no wrong answer, but the trick is finding the best solution for you and your lifestyle. This decision is comparable to whether you want to buy or rent a house. Buying allows you more freedom to customize and is generally cheaper in the long-term, where renting removes the hassle of making repairs and gives you the flexibility to jump from house to house once your rental contract is up. If you are somebody that knows autobody, craves customization and ownership, wants to commit long-term and possesses the ability to diagnose and make repairs on your vehicle, buying may be the best route for you. If you prefer to drive a new vehicle without having to worry about maintenance costs and are comfortable with always having a monthly payment – leasing might be your best bet.

Here’s more good news – you aren’t stuck on one path for your entire life. Feel free to try out both options if it makes sense for both your budget and your lifestyle!


Like I said above, it’s common for people to have a very definitive opinion on this debate. Let’s hear yours!