Are Credit Cards Weapons Of Mass Financial Destruction?
The answer depends on if your name is Saddam Hussein, although proponents would say no proof was ever found! You hear so many stories of consumers up to their eyeballs in credit card debt, and I’m just wondering WHY? Credit card debt is the most expensive debt out there, second only to usurious rates of loan sharks.
Perhaps the reason why is because credit cards are ubiquitous. According to the US Census Bureau, there were 173 million credit cardholders in the US in 2006, using 1.5 billion credit cards? That’s right, the ratio is almost 10 credit cards to every one user, with transaction volumes of over $2 trillion a year! No wonder the US consumer gets in trouble, and why credit cards are such big business!
My view on credit cards is quite simple: Use credit cards only to your advantage, and never let them take advantage of you! Whenever you see your credit card misbehaving, you should think to yourself “Bad boy! Bad, BAD!” I think my wife tells me this sometimes, but I try and tune it out.
Joel is hosting a $500 American Express giveaway, and gosh darnit, I’m entering to give myself a chance to win. In “You’re Rejected! How I Use Rejection To Motivate Me Every Single Day,” we discuss how success is a numbers game. The more you put yourself out there, the higher the chance you have to succeed. Here’s my attempt to win and use the proceeds to buy toys and clothing for underprivileged children this winter in San Francisco. The program is called “Toys 4 Tots.”
TWO MISSLES IN MY WALLET
My first card is the American Express Corporate Card necessary for business bookkeeping purposes. You see, all client expenses must be paid for by my Corporate AMEX card so the company can match costs with profits. Makes, sense. Too bad I have to pay the bill every month, and then get reimbursed, thereby creating unnecessary delays, negative working capital, and occasional late fees. There was a time when having an AMEX Corporate Card was very cool (your early 20′s), but it soon gets old. At least their service is solid.
The second card is my personal Citibank Home Rebate card which gives me a 1% rebate on all purchases to pay off the principal of my primary residence. I’ve had the card for six years, and the card has paid off more than $1,700 worth of principal already. What’s more interesting to note is that based off a 5-6% mortgage interest rate, the real savings is thousands and thousands more because of interest saved over time.
Of course, nothing is perfect. I woke up one day to find my 6.99% Citibank Home Rebate Credit Card rate jump to 14.99% duringthe height of the recession last year. Funny, because the 10-yr yield was still in the low 3%-range, and the Fed Funds rate was below 1%. This pissed me off, and I immediately called them to lower the rate. Again, don’t let credit card companies and banks take advantage of you.
PACKING AN A-BOMB
If someone were to kidnap my pet rabbit and force me to sign-up for another credit card to save his life, I would have to pick the Visa Black Card. The selection of credit cards Joel provides is impressive, but only the Visa Black Card is well, black. In addition, the description says “Membership limited to only 1% of US residents!” Don’t you want to feel special if you pack a new financial weapon of mass……… joy?
WEAPONS FOR PEACE
A credit card is a wonderful financial tool if used properly. I put everything on my personal credit card because 1) It helps record all my transactions which are divided into different categories I can review every month, 2) The 1% home rebate saves me money, but is not the primary reason for use, 3) I don’t like carrying over $100 in cash, and 4) A credit card provides consumer protection against fraud and defects.
But I must ask again, why on earth would you EVER not pay off your bill in full every month? Not doing so is akin to pulling the grenade pin and not letting go! Did you know that if you paid off $999 of your $1,000 balance, most credit cards will charge you interest on the full $1,000 balance? Credit Card companies are marketing geniuses. Make sure you’re Albert Einstein.
The credit card companies already make a small commission off the vendor every time you use the card, don’t let them charge you interest as well! Credit cards are not weapons of mass financial distraction if used properly. Instead, they are a necessary part of day-to-day transactions, and there seems to be no turning back.
OTHER HANDY USES FOR CREDIT CARDS:
1) Spatula when there’s a hole in the wall to fill with caulk.
2) Ninja star when I’m in a dark alley and someone is coming after me.
3) Babe magnets at a bar when I tell the bartender to “leave it open.”
4) Lock pick when I leave my keys in the house.
5) Tooth pick after a good ‘ol San Francisco crab feast.
CREDIT CARD RECOMMENDATION
If you are an avid traveler and looking for a travel rewards credit card, you can sign up for the Barclaycard Arrival World MasterCard with a $89 annual fee for double the points on all purchases and 40,000 signup miles ($400 value) or the Barclaycard Arrival World MasterCard with no annual fee with double the points on travel and dining and 20,000 signup miles ($200 value). I’m going with the version with the annual fee because the first year’s fee is waived. You can read a more detailed review I wrote of the Barclaycard Arrival here.
Financial Samurai – “Slicing Through Money’s Mysteries”