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Should You Charge Vacations to Credit Cards?

I was talking with a friend over the dinner a few days ago about the need for a vacation. We've both been stressed and feeling the need to get away - but the caveat at the end of that thought is "when I save enough money to go."

Now, I was raised by fiscally responsible parents who, if they carried credit card debt, immediately kicked into a mode to pay it off as quickly as possible. When I got older and had jobs and money, I learned a few lessons, some very tough, about carrying credit card debt that left a mark on my psyche. Which leads to the question of the day: should you charge a vacation on your credit cards?

In general, I think that credit cards, when used responsibly, help us human beings out in lots of ways. You have to use credit cards at some point in your life to establish your credit worthiness (unless you last name matches that of a hotel chain or your first name is Oprah). They also permit us to pay for emergencies that arise in our lives that otherwise could break us financially. But vacations? Aren't they a luxury item that one should save entirely for, like a special treat?

Well, my personal opinion is a resounding "sort of."

There's a balance that needs to occur in any person's life where the psychological and emotional need for a getaway outweighs the 14.99% that you may end up paying on such an excursion. Whether you're sinking your toes into the sand on your own, with a soul mate or a tour, or even on a girlfriends' or guys' getaway is up to you. Personally, I think all of the above are in order at one point in life or another.

So here's how I do it - in all it's un-secret, unscientific, and probably un-financially-endorsed glory. I split it.

The fixed expenses - which I consider to be transportation and lodging - go on a credit card. Those are charges that are one fell swoop expenses that I am comfortable with paying off over time. I don't fly first class or get ocean view rooms - I keep those costs as low as possible. Here's why - those costs are my basis for what needs to be in my savings account to pay for my other expenses, like meals, rental cars (if necessary), and what my dad would call "walking around money." I MAY put those costs on a credit card temporarily so I can accrue airline miles or some other type of benefit that my credit card company is offering, but as soon as I get home, I pay off those portions immediately.

Ultimately, this is a personal choice and must fall within your own parameters of what you consider to be an acceptable use of credit card debt and your savings. But going the 50/50 route works for me.

Safe (and financially responsible) travels.

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