MY LIFE WITHOUT A CREDIT CARD
When my first credit card arrived in the mail I felt euphoric.
I was 19. I tore the envelope open, activated it, signed my name and drove straight to the shops.
My plan was to buy myself a treat. I was a credit card customer now, after all. I was a successful young woman with a full-time job and a credit card to prove it.
I bought myself some clothing, nothing too expensive. Then I wandered in the next shop and bough a top. On a roll now, I walked into the very next shop and bought some earrings (may as well buy an entire outfit).
I was up to my sixth shop in 30 minutes – slightly sweaty and dizzy with delight – when my credit card was declined. I was confused because I hadn’t spent anywhere near my limit but a phone call to the bank revealed that my card had been flagged for ‘an unusual level of use’. They thought it had been stolen and the thief was going on a shopping spree before I could cancel.
I had to confess that the person on the shopping spree was me.
I felt sick. It really jolted me out of my spending stupor, but it didn’t stop me from going on a shopping spree again and I remained in credit card debt for over a decade.
According to the Consumer Action Law Centre Report (Banking on finding your weak spots by Deborah Gough in the Sun Herald), “revolvers” are the credit card users banks love most.
“Revolvers” always have an outstanding balance on their credit card that they never pay off, but they do pay something. These are the banks’ most lucrative credit card customers.
My life as a “revolver” came to an end when I entered a committed relationship. All my financial misdeeds were laid bare. We wanted to buy a home together and my credit card debt was as shocking to him as it was surprising to me. I’d never added it all up before.
I was $23,000 in debt.
Funnily enough, my credit card use made me an attractive customer to our bank when it came to applying for a mortgage because despite the fact that I had this debt, I made regular payments. I had “demonstrated an ability to service debt”.
Ten years later and I’ve grown up a lot. I now see credit cards for what they really are – redundant and expensive. With a credit card, my $60 handbag ended up costing me $74 dollars. A $20 cafe lunch ended up costing $34. It didn’t make any sense! Who can justify having a credit card when we now have the option of debit credit cards? All the ease of a credit facility but it uses your own money. A $60 handbag costs $60. It’s a no-brainer.
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