Credit Cards How To Use Credit Cards Wisely

Worst Credit Card Purchases to Ever Make

Being young and on your own is difficult enough. Being young with a little piece of plastic that allows you to make credit card purchases on a whim can make life a lot more difficult.

If you’re not making a lot of money early in your career, using a credit card can help make your financial life a little easier, but only if you pay the balance off in full each month. Making too many credit card purchases can push you into debt, causing you to regret buying that party dress or going out for an expensive dinner.

Impulse buys such as an expensive cup of coffee at Starbucks are bad enough to charge on a credit card, but even everyday purchases can get out of hand if you don’t think about them and consider if you can afford such credit card purchases.

While credit cards can be used wisely, everyone probably has a story of bad credit card purchases that they’ve made, and only remember it when the bill comes due. Here are some of the worst credit card purchases you can make:

Small credit card purchases that add up

From “cheap” party dresses to going out to dinner or buying rounds of drinks when your paycheck can’t afford it, Brenda Della Casa has used credit cards to make small purchases that added up to more than she thought they would when her credit card bills arrived.

She was in college when she got her first credit card, earning $10 an hour and working 20 hours a week, which turned out not be enough money to pay for the chic dinners out and rounds of drinks that her wealthier friends could afford.

“It took me four years to drive down meaningless debt accrued by things that had no lasting value,” she says. “Now, I only use my cards for bucket-list purchases and it’s one at a time. Last year it was Italy and I am close to paying that off and will then book Spain.” She estimates she pays 11% a year in credit card interest for such trips, and considers the expense worthwhile.

Foreign transaction fees

Some credit cards are getting rid of this fee, but for Jason Simms, a $30 foreign transaction fee on a hotel stay while in Greece was an expensive surprise when he got his credit card statement.

Simms found out that he could have easily upgraded to a credit card that didn’t include such fees, but because he didn’t learn that before his trip, the fee couldn’t be refunded, he was told.

Concert tickets

Like a trip to a far-off country, a ticket to a concert or music festival may seem worth charging on a credit card as a lifetime event that’s too good to pass up. But paying interest on the charge if it isn’t paid by the first due date can make it a near-lifelong event.

Jason Bushey, who runs a personal finance website, says he bought a pair of summer musical festival tickets after his junior year of college to surprise his girlfriend, at $200 each. Bushey promised himself that he’d pay off the charge quickly, but it didn’t happen as he paid the monthly minimum most months and carried a $400 or higher balance.

He spent more than a year and a half paying off the concert tickets. The credit card balance lasted longer than his relationship with the girlfriend he was trying to impress.

Online dating

Whitney Sparks, who didn’t meet her husband through an online dating service, says he used it for one date with another woman before he met Sparks. He paid $2,500 for the membership, which Sparks helped him pay off after they were married.

[pull_quote align=”left”]After a woman helped her husband pay off $2,500 for an online dating service he used once before he married her, they made another bad credit card purchase together as a couple: a ‘membership discount’ that allowed them to buy things through a magazine.[/pull_quote]One of the worst credit card purchases they made together was a “membership discount” to buy things through a magazine. They spent about $3,000 on a setting of china.

In total, they accrued $18,000 on two credit cards and bad credit card purchases, with interest rates that were always 20% or higher. They created a budget that left them $1,000 a month, and paid of the credit cards (and the bad credit card purchases) in less than five years, says Sparks, who works as a financial coach.

Expensive toys

Some credit cards come with a 0% introductory APR during the first six months, which can turn into an interest-free loan for six months. David Bakke, who has written about credit card debt for Money Crashers, says he and a friend got a joint American Express card with such an offer, and decided to buy a $5,000 four-wheel ATV and would try to pay it off within six months.

“We had a ton of fun with it, but after a few weeks, we began to wonder whether we could afford to pay it off in six months,” Bakke says.

They couldn’t, and waited beyond the 30-day return policy to return the toy, paying off only about a quarter of the cost during the first six months. It took them another year to pay it off completely, paying more than $1,000 in interest.

But they still hadn’t learned a lesson about making bad credit card purchases, charging about $1,500 on a whim on a laptop computer, but this time without 0% APR, Bakke says. It took them about nine months to pay it off, paying more than $1,800 total for the computer.

“We didn’t try to return it — we were simply blind to how much we could actually pay for it once the credit card interest kicked in,” he says.

What are some of the worst credit card purchases you’ve made? Respond in the comments sections below.

About the author

Aaron Crowe

Aaron Crowe

Aaron Crowe is a freelance journalist in the Bay Area who specializes in personal finance. He has been a writer and editor at newspapers and websites, including AOL's personal finance site, WiseBread, Bankrate, LearnVest, AARP and other sites. Follow him on Twitter at @aaroncrowe, or at his website,


  • Using my credit cards in strip clubs was not a great decision. Those fees! And you get nothing lasting for all that money you’re charging…you’re basically going into debt and throwing money away for nothing other than a very short term few minutes of pleasure that sometimes isn’t even that pleasurable to begin with. If you go to a strip club, and you should rarely go to one, then carry a set amount of cash and don’t spend any more than that! Leave those credit cards at home!

  • I made tons of ridiculous purchases when I was younger with no understanding of how credit cards worked. I was not taught how to deal with my finances responsibly therefore I am suffering now decades later due to those mistakes. I have never had a high paying job which would enable me to pay off those old debts. I firmly believe children and young adults need to be properly taught how to handle their finances so they can understand how their choices will affect their future. Being nagged at by parents to “save your money” does not help and neither does having siblings constantly steal your money. I have learned a tough lesson and am trying to climb out of the hole I’m in. I look forward to the day when I can purchase the program so I can help myself and maybe even be able to guide others out of their financial nightmare.
    I have a question about getting my credit score: is it really safe to get it online?

    • Hi C,

      It’s very unfortunate that teaching personal finance is not a priority for schools, or many families. As far as getting your credit scores online, it is safe as long as you are using a reputable company like You can also get a free copy of your credit report once every 12 months from

      What is the first step that you are planning to take to get your finances back on track?


  • I have a question not a comment. I want to know how I go about getting things off my credit report tat are 7 years old or older like 12 to 15 years old?

  • After 30 years saving, lost almost all, and my credit score has fallen from 820 to 690s. The good: Sam’s Club had a special (3 days only) where I could get an iPad over 2 years with 0% interest. It’s taking time but worth it because monthly payments are low and NO interest. Because I can no longer afford to buy any extras, this has been a wonderful help to me–am writing you using my iPad. The bad: I have not done the homework to try to raise my credit score–except slowly and surely pay off debt. Have just felt I could not tackle dealing with it.
    Thank you for your regular e-mail ideas–because I’m in my early 70s, a high percentage of your suggestions I already use. But it’s helpful to keep adding new concepts to eventually pay off my debt. If this keeps up, I may even be able to purchase your Credit Solution Program someday! Thank you for what seems to be a company with a sense of responsibility and helpfulness, not just in business because of greed.

    • Hi Lyndell,

      Glad to hear that you find the information so helpful. The hardest part of raising your credit score is usually taking the first step. It can be overwhelming, but a good place to start is getting a copy of your credit report and going through it with a fine tooth comb to see exactly where you need improvement. You can get a copy of your report from

      This article has some great information and ideas about raising your credit score:

      Good luck, and please check back in to let us know how you continue to tackle your credit score issues.


  • This story I know all too well. Purchased my motorcycle on a credit card, at a time where I couldn’t even afford the deposit. Yeah- let’s talk about interests. Lesson learned. Never again.

    • Hi There,

      Thanks for sharing–I think we all can relate to learning financial lessons the hard way. Credit cards can be very useful but only if they’re used in the right ways. Are there any other lessons that you have learned that you would like to share?


  • I’ve learned a lot from the free credit report videos too, has helped me avoid some serious mistakes. I now have 13 gas, technology, and dept store cards, 1 unsecured Visa, and 1 secured Mastercard that started the whole journey. I keep it open because it’s my oldest account. I plan to keep it open (but not use it) for at least another couple years, until my newer accounts have aged a bit. I did take it out of my wallet to avoid being tempted. It’s in my jewelry box.

    I pay off my cards every month, faithfully. I recently got a chase freedom with no interest for 15 months, plus cash back. I purchased a new laptop and a new bed on it. Since I’m paid yearly in April, I intend to make the min payment (no interest) until April then will pay off the balance in April to avoid any interest. I would never make such a purchase unless I knew for sure I had the money coming in to pay it off before the interest kicked in and starting adding up. I’m lucky, I have friends who have gotten in over their head and I see them struggling to get out … I learned from their mistakes. I am still considering buying the full program, as I would like to continue to improve my score so that I can buy a house someday and get the best possible interest rates.

    • Hi,

      It’s great to hear that you have been able to maintain a great credit score and avoid common problems with debt. It’s unfortunate that many people like your friends have not been as lucky, but the good news is that there are many ways they can improve their credit scores and build a better financial future for themselves one step at a time.

      I recommend sharing these videos with them to get them started:

      Thanks for reaching out, I hope that success stories like yours inspire others to take control of their credit.


  • With my Kohls charge EVERY time I use it I pay with card go out of the store and write a check to Kohls right that minute. So far one year now and I had never had a balance on that card. I am credit card debt free and owe nothing.

  • The worst thing one could do, I personally have not, is using one credit card to pay off another. It does not matter what the interest rate is on the card, unless you cut up the first one to resist temptation. If it is a lower interest rate, great….cut up the first one and put the second one in a block of ice in your freezer…hands off!!

    If the interest rates are comparable, why use one for the other? Is it because a new card arrived, providing the opportunity for more spending with two credit cards? If so, there is nothing more to say here. That is an addiction; that requires counseling.

    If anyone has such an addiction as extreme shopping habits, spending money on items that are not necessary- causing one financial hardship, and/or spending excessive money causing one’s personal living space to become dangerous to live in…please seek help from family, friends, or even a member of one’s church or a counselor.

    • Thanks for your comment. I think a 0% balance transfer card can be a good idea if you cut up the old card after you transfer your balance – if you don’t get rid of the old card you risk getting into more debt.

  • I have had five items removed from my credit report and my credit score increased by 148 points over the last four months just from the free info. I gleaned from Credit Solution and their free info. reports. boy what do they have for the paying customer!

  • I’ve got some of the best and worst lists.. Worst is the $4000 computer, that was to be used as a work asset and turned out being a gaming system eventually. It took me 3 years to pay it off and cost me over 1500 in interest. The Best was when i got some 0% balance transfer checks that i used to pay off my car loan (at the time it was 19.9% interest as it was my first loan ever), I paid off the car in 1/2 the time with no interest accrued.

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