Someone Stole My Credit Card – What To Do?

Thief StealJust when I said nothing much happens with my credit card, somebody goes ahead and steals my credit card! But perhaps “stealing” is the wrong word to use in this situation, so let me clarify.

The last place I used my credit card was at the local Kelly Moore paint store. I remember taking it out, but not taking it back before I left. I remember the clerk who swiped my card for $43 for a gallon of hybrid paint. Yet, when I called back a day later to see if they had my card, the clerk said “no.”

Then I went back to the store the next day to ask the employees face-to-face if anybody saw my card. I can usually tell if someone is lying if I look them straight in the eye and ask them an important question. The manager on duty, whom I’ve seen the last four out of five times I’ve gone, hesitated and blurted out “nobody has told me about a missing credit card” before I finished asking my question. It was as if he already knew what I was going to ask. Hmmm.

I gave him my contact details in case anybody finds anything, and told him that someone took the card and went across the Bay to a Berkeley gas station and charged it up. The only way you can charge a credit card for gas is if you put in the credit card holder’s zip code. Given my zip code is the same zip code as the paint store, and the paint store was the last place I used the card, chances are high that one of the employees decided to keep my card and use it without my permission. (Thought: Perhaps change your credit card billing address to your work address so the zip codes are different)

It really stinks feeling suspicious of others. Everybody but one person in the store is innocent. Unfortunately, I no longer feel comfortable going there anymore.

When I was paying at the register one visit, one of the clerks asked me about the Frog Tape I was buying. “Hey, you trying to paint a straight line, or something?”

“Yeah, the line where the wall meets the trim,” I responded.

“I got a secret on how to paint a straight line real easy,” he said. “But it’ll cost you 5 bucks.”

I laughed, thinking he was joking as I admired his tattoos of serpent heads. I waited for him to tell me the secret, but he never did! WTF. I can appreciate a good hustle, but trying to personally extract another $5 after I’ve already spent $600 at the store is low quality.

Steps To Get Out Of MASSIVE Credit Card Debt Due To Lifestyle Inflation

Lifestyle inflation and a mega yachtI don’t discuss too much about credit cards on Financial Samurai because I’ve only got three (a travel rewards card, a generic rewards card, and a corporate card) and nothing much happens except for racking up rewards points. Definitely use a credit card for convenience, safety, rewards points, and insurance protection if you can control yourself. But if you’re not careful, thanks to the ease of use and absurdly high interest rates, problems may ensue.

The following is a guest post by Debs, a middle income earning new grandmother who was able to amass over $140,000 in credit card debt! I asked her to share her story on how she did it, and how she is getting herself out of debt. Kudos to Debs for having the courage to share her story.

It’s embarrassing to admit, but I tell this tale as a warning to all people like me who are on the bandwagon of lifestyle inflation, “I deserve” and family struggles that may cause you to take your eyes off the ball and wake up one day to say “How did I get here?”.

We weren’t addicted gamblers or smokers. We didn’t have a lot of fancy toys. We drank moderately and yes, we had four kids and a large home to boot (purchased in 1991). Maybe a few travels thrown in here and there, but not excessive. There was some shopping for work clothes and things for our home. Maybe a bit of stress relief shopping, but nothing extravagant. That is my first message.

Our debt crept up on us without even realizing it. At least I didn’t realize the size it had grown to. I wasn’t watching the finances. I was only working hard to contribute to the family income. That was enough, or so I thought.

How Much Is The Average Credit Card Debt Per Household?

Average Credit Card Debt Per Household

How many times have you withdrawn a wad of cash only to see it disappear a few days later with little idea where it all went? By putting as much expenditure on my credit cards as possible I get a handy dandy pie chart and expense line breakdown at the end of every month to see where my money is going. Furthermore, I get all those juicy rewards points that really begin to rack up over time.

The average household owes $15,191 based on data from the Federal Reserve and Nerd Wallet, a credit card lead generator. They also throw out a $7,191 number for average credit card debt for “non-indebted households.” According to the Experian Intelliview tool, the average credit card balance per consumer was $3,779 in 1Q2013. However, consumers with low credit scores – like a “D” in the VantageScore range – had average credit card debt of $5,965. Finally, according to CreditCards.com the average credit card debt per U.S. adult, excluding zero-balance cards and store cards is $4,878. The average debt per credit card that usually carries a balance is $8,220. And the average debt per credit card that doesn’t usually carry a balance is $1,037 (must equal spend).

It’s hard to figure out what’s the right number because they seem way too high and all over the place given the median household income is around $51,000. One way to finding a better average credit card debt and spend number is to simply get more datapoints with a short four question survey below.

The impact on the amount of average revolving credit card debt per household is largely determined by income. You might have an astounding $15,000 in revolving credit card debt, but if you are making $1 million a year, who cares? The more pertinent measure is average revolving monthly credit card debt to average monthly gross income.

What’s confusing is that it’s unclear whether people who pay off their credit card bills every month are also included in the average credit card debt per household. After all, when I charge something on my card, I have interest free debt for 28-31 days, depending on the month, until I pay the bill off in full. The solution is to simply calculate the average credit card spend a month to the average monthly gross income, and calculate the average revolving credit card debt a month to the average monthly gross income to get a more thorough picture.

What’s The Most Amount Of Travel Miles And Credit Card Rewards Points You’ve Accumulated A Year?

Beautiful Santorini, GreeceWhen I was a young buck, I used to travel like a maniac for work. I was based in Manhattan and had to cover clients in Florida, Bahamas, Iowa, Texas, Colorado, and California. Then there were the necessary quarterly or semi-annual pilgrimages to Hong Kong to kiss the ring. When you’ve got a corporate card with unlimited credit, you feel a little better about taking red-eyes to your 8am meetings. But after a while, the novelty wears off and all you want to do is take the Chairman’s Flight (fly in the middle of the work day).

Travel miles and credit card rewards points was my combination of choice because not only would I gain more points flying more miles, I would then gain rewards points for every dollar I spent on the ticket, hotels, food, and entertainment. For example, I’d earn 16,100 points for flying to Hong Kong from New York City roundtrip + 5,000 points for the cost of the business class ticket + 2,500 points for seven nights in a hotel + 1,000 points for food + 500 points for entertainment. The total rewards points accumulated would therefore equal ~25,000 for a one week business trip to Asia.

I used to have a Delta Skymiles credit card, an American Airlines credit card, and an AMEX corporate card as part of my arsenal of spending tools. After racking up 130,000 travel miles one year and accumulating roughly 180,000 credit card rewards points, I realized that having three travel credit cards was inefficient so I consolidated to just two. (See: What Is The Ideal Number Of Credit Cards One Should Have?)

I was so proud of my 130,000 travel miles that I actually included that stat in a line item on my resume in my 20s. I know, a rookie move. In retrospect, I don’t know how impressive the stat was since I’ve heard of people travel 300,000 – 500,000 miles a year, which I find absolutely amazing. But those folks were either executives who constantly flew first or business class internationally, or worked in the airlines industry.

Use A Credit Card To Protect You From Everything Bad

Bad boy, credit card fraudI don’t understand people who don’t use credit cards. Not only do you get an interest free loan for 30 days, you also get rewards points. Perhaps even more importantly, you get fraud and conflict protection.

In “When Saving Money Is No Longer Worth Your Time But You Do It Anyway,” I called up my credit card company to dispute my $35 Walgreen charge out of principle because I felt the pharmacist had misled me. Instead of the credit card company filing a dispute, they simply credited me back $35 dollars, no questions asked.

Getting travel rewards points with the Discover It card is great, but what I really like about the card is travel insurance. Discover It offers automatic travel accident insurance, reimbursement for expenses if your bag is lost or delayed, trip cancellation coverage, and $0 fraud liability. When I’m on vacation or traveling for business, the last thing I want is to stress about is crap that’s outside of my control.

Instead of me spending hours disputing charges or recuperating losses, I’ll just call the credit card company to dispute and recuperate for me. The older and wealthier you get, the less you want to sweat the small stuff.