By Jim Donovan

By Jim Donovan

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – A survey from retailers finds that more than half of Americans have already started their holiday shopping. A credit card can be a useful tool, as long as you don’t let that balance get out of hand. So 3 On Your Side Consumer Reporter Jim Donovan has this advice for safe spending.

The season for spending is upon us and year after year, consumers are reminded of the dangers of holiday debt. Responsible spending doesn’t have to mean putting your credit cards on ice.

If you’ve got a card with rewards or points attached, between travel and gift spending, credit card expert Beverly Harzog says this is the time of year, to make it work for you. According to Harzog, “You can even start using those rewards points to buy gifts so it really is a good idea to use your cards, as long as you don’t overspend, and as long as you keep track of what you’re spending.”

That’s the key whether using credit or cash. Make a budget, and don’t wait until after the new year to see if you stuck to it. Re-evaluate spending regularly and while in stores, beware of the allure of the retailer’s credit card. Harzog says, “The positive that they try to sell you on at the register is that you can get 10 or 15 percent off right away and, you know, that is very enticing, but it’s still a good idea to read that credit card agreement first.”

That agreement will clue you in on the card’s interest rate, which can make a little holiday debt a lot bigger if not paid off right away. That’s something to keep in mind for any holiday purchase on credit.

For more advice from credit expert Beverly Harzog and to sign up for her newsletter and blog visit:

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