Financial education: The pros and cons of a credit card

When I first got my credit card, I vowed I would never use it unless I absolutely had to. Let’s take a moment to laugh at my naiveté. Let’s be honest, a credit card is like having a license. It allows you to drive, and even when you know the speed limit, sometimes you tend to go over. We’ve all heard the horror stories; people who shopped themselves into insurmountable debt, and the eventual financial ruins that comes with debt.

Of course, we don’t believe in telling people how to spend their money. But we’re convinced that a little sensitisation goes a long way! With a bit of know-how, anyone can use a credit card in a practical, non-destructive way. Here are our identified pros and cons to shopping with a credit card:

The Pros

Emergency protection: Emergency fund is just that: money used for emergencies! A credit card can help you juggle unforeseen expenses when your account has been depleted. Or prevent it from getting there!

 Purchasing power: Online, in-store, overseas, at your local market, your credit card gives you purchasing power worldwide! It is especially handy when you’re overseas and do not have cash on hand.

Buy now, pay later: Credit cards let you buy now and pay later. If you are making large purchases on your debit card, once that money is gone, it’s gone. Buying now and paying later is a great way to keeping your account intact. And with a credit card, you also have the option of gradual repayment, so you’re not out of pocket.

 The Cons

 Interest:  A credit card’s interest rate is the price you pay for borrowing money. A high interest rate can drag you deeper and deeper in debt if you don’t pay off your balance quickly. You can avoid paying (high) interest on purchases if you pay your balance in full each month by the due date.

Ease of spending: You may be thinking that this should be up in the pros section, but having a credit card make it a little too easy to spend money. If you’re anything like me, it’s easy to pretend like you’re not spending real money when you’re not paying with cash. If you’re not careful, it’s easy to fall into suffocating debt. It all comes down to being careful with your money.

Destroy credit: What the credit card giveth, it can taketh away. Missing payments, going over your credit limit, or having too many credit cards can quickly put you in financial debt!

For some people, credit cards can be destructive. So long as you can use cards wisely, it is a very handy tool to have on hand, especially as you don’t know when you will need it the most.

Finances – Protecting yourself against fraudsters

Has your mobile phone ever rung, and you see an international number you don’t recognise flashing on the screen? Chances are it was a scam attempt with the intention of collecting personal financial details from you. Whether it’s by email, phone or social media, fraudsters have found ways to gain access to personal information, which can be detrimental to your finances.

Below we explore some of the tactics that have been used, and what you can do if ever you find yourself in a similar situation.

  1. Be wary of voice phishing 

Voice phishing or “vishing” are calls made from someone usually claiming to be from your bank or a reputable company who wants you to divulge personal information about yourself or your account. Some calls may be automated. The intent is to get you to divulge your account details by claiming that they need to verify suspicious activities on your account, or they need to make a refund to your account.

What you should do

Your bank will likely never attempt to contact you and ask for personal account details over the phone. Put the phone down when they ask for your payment or bank account details. Don’t share this information over the phone. If you accidentally share your details, call your bank immediately. If you are unsure of the authenticity of the call, contact your bank to confirm that the caller is an affiliate of their institution.

  1. Look out for phishing emails 

Phishing emails usually come from what looks like a genuine email from a reputable person or company claiming that you have won something. The email will ask you to click a link for further information, or to claim your prize. You’ll most likely be asked to download something – typically, this will be malicious software (malware) masquerading as something, which will allow fraudsters to access your details, and access to your financial information.

What you should do

Unless you actually participated in a lottery, it will be quite unlikely that you will suddenly be a winner of a big international lottery iprize. You should always be sceptical about suspicious emails. Always check the sender’s email address. Some email addresses appear to have the same domain names as those you are familiar with in your contact list. Always double check for small inconsistencies in email addresses. Block the sender and delete the email straight away. Make sure your anti-virus and anti-spyware software are up to date, and your firewall is strong. Do not click on links or download attachments. Schedule frequent scans on your computer.

3. How to spot smishing messages

As silly as it may sound, smishing is a real threat. Think back: have you ever received a text message from a number you didn’t recognise with a link, or asking you to call a number you don’t know? That’s smishing text messages!

What you should do

Don’t click on any links, and check any numbers with your bank. If the number isn’t genuine, delete the text message from your phone.

4. Protect yourself on social media 

How many times this year has a friend posted on their facebook wall that so and so’s facebook has been hacked or duplicated and asking you not to accept any new friend request under their name? Fraudsters have been known to hack social media accounts and impersonate the account owners. Once in, they make contact with the owner’s friends and family, and convince them to part with their money or bank details by pulling on their heartstrings. You could be contacted by someone you know, who suddenly and desperately needs money, asking you to transfer money to an account, or to share your bank details with them. Sound familiar?

 What you should do

If it is someone you know personally, speak to that person directly to see if their request is genuine, as the message could be coming from a hacked account. If it’s from someone you do not know, report the incident to the social media mediators. To prevent your account from getting hacked, avoid clicking on facebook links you are not familiar with, especially those prompting you to log in. Change your password frequently. Activate double security for your facebook account.

When it comes to fraud protection, remember prevention is always better than cure. Always check before you share.


Is workplace bullying a thing?

I once knew someone who was a victim of workplace bullying.

She was treated differently to other employees. She faced constant criticism over her work. She rarely received praise for a job done well. She never received positive acknowledgement. And when her work was particularly good, it was often thought to be that of someone else’.

While most of us think of bullying as a school issue, very often bullying takes place in other aspects of life – at work, at home and in the neighbourhood around us. While some forms of bullying escalate into physical assault, workplace bullying is silent and almost never addressed.

What is workplace bullying?
It is any on-going harmful or threatening behaviour or actions by a person or group of people in your workplace that creates a risk to your health and safety, as well as your career progression.

How does it manifest?
It can start off subtly, and migrate to things like:

  • Excluding you from workplace activities or conversations
  • Giving you pointless or demeaning tasks that don’t help you do your job
  • Making impossible demands and setting you up to fail
  • using your roster to deliberately make things difficult for you
  • withholding important information crucial to your work
  • spreading rumours, gossip or innuendo about you
  • hurtful comments, making fun of you or your work

And in more extreme cases:

  • insulting, yelling, swearing at you
  • physical violence, from pushing and tripping to outright attacks
  • threatening phone calls or texts or threatening you with workplace equipment

Who participates in bullying?
More often than not, the person doing the bullying can be someone in a position of power and authority such as a boss, manager, supervisor or senior staff etc. However, bullying can also happen between colleagues where a group of staff seek to isolate one or more staff. Unfortunately, bullying also succeeds where some chooses to stay quiet as they are not the target of these acts.

Why is it important to address workplace bullying?
A culture of bullying created in a work environment can be toxic and harmful to work performance. It can often lead to poor or low work outputs resulting in inefficiencies and subpar service delivery. In many cases, customers can sense negative vibes in the environment and are often unintended targets of such cultures. These harmful interactions at work can cause outstanding staff to quit their work therefore causing brain drain in the company itself. Overall, the company and eventually society as a whole suffers from a culture of bullying.

 How can you help stop workplace bullying?
Employers have a responsibility to provide a safe workplace. If you or someone you work with is being bullied, report the incident(s) to Human Resources. You might feel strange, embarrassed or scared to report it. You may be scared of losing your job, or escalating the situation, but you need to be brave because what you allow will continue.

What is NOT bullying at work?
Be clear though, that not everything is bullying at work. Sometimes even if we may feel prejudiced against, some things simply are not bullying. Getting fired, transferred, demoted or disciplined is not bullying if there is a justifiable reason behind it. It’s perfectly legitimate for your manager to criticise your performance, if you haven’t been doing well or your work is up for review. It’s their job to manage the quality of your work and ensure you are delivering outstanding work. You can easily differentiate between appraisal and bullying through language used – one builds you up, the other tears you down.