Once burned, twice shy.

English is a language replete with idioms and adages. The above phrase is one example from a thick playbook of expressions that seek to impart a particular kernel of wisdom.

If you’re not familiar with the words, a couple examples where they reasonably apply might help.

To wit: If you slam your finger with a hammer, you’re going to be extra careful the next time you use that tool. If that dog you tried to pet last week bit you, you’ll undoubtedly seek to stay clear of its teeth the next time you see it.

And let’s just throw credit cards into the mix. If you went deeply into debt once before because of card misuse … .

The inclination there – especially for many American consumers who have suffered harsh downsides relevant to credit card use in the past – is to just steer clear of subsequent card use altogether.

A recent article on card misuse cautions against that reaction, especially for some individuals and families who were burned before, yet might be able to revise their strategies to benefit from future card use.

The bottom line stressed in that piece is this: When used properly and as part of an integrated credit mix, smart card use can drive up your credit score. It can also net you some attractive purchasing options (e.g., airline miles, gift cards, redeemable cash and more) and secure you lower interest rates on future borrowing for a home or other important asset.

The aforementioned article stresses that a once-burned consumer in Arkansas or elsewhere might want “to give credit cards a second chance.” Provided you use them properly, they can be a friend and not a nemesis as you reestablish financial traction following material debt challenges.