I have regretted using credit cards ever since I got one my freshman year of college; I remember the first time I used it. I picked up the breakfast tab at The Great Harvest for Marcia, a family friend, just after she installed me in my first apartment. She looked at me warily and said, “You don’t want to use that thing. Let me pay for it.” I felt so grown up when I insisted on paying because, “I need to build my credit.”

I’ve paid off balances but within a year I am back to being buried in credit card debt, the absolute worst kind. Recurring auto-pay bills keep a steady stream of money trickling out, impulse buys, one or two big events (a trip, a doctor bill) and I am back to barely making the minimum.

My banker apologetically informed me that new legislation required him to ask me whether if, in the event of insufficient funds, would I rather my debit card be declined, or would I prefer to use overdraft protection? Hmm, let’s see.

It costs $20 for overdraft “protection” to cover a purchase. That’s $20 to use a credit card, not including interest. Would it be so horrible for a cashier to know that, like EVERYONE ELSE IN THIS COUNTRY, I am living beyond my means? Or would I rather be given the choice to find another way to pay (I can pull another card out of my wallet without the $20 fee) or maybe rethink the purchase and ask myself if I really need it?

Decline me. Please.

I’ve been told over and over to never pay off my debt. Why? Because it will hurt my credit score. And I need more credit cards! Any financial advisor who encourages debt is in collusion with the credit industry. The only thing they are interested in preserving is your ability to go deeper into debt. It’s the American way.

Why are we letting ourselves be manipulated into spending beyond our means? Do you really think you will be denied a loan because you have a history of paying off your debts? A credit score is not a measure of your ability to pay off loans, it’s a measure of how much interest you are willing to pay, and for how long.

This year I resolve to pay off my credit card and transfer auto-pay bills to my bank account. I intend to save up for a big trip to southeast Asia and pay for it in advance. Save up for it. Talk about an antique phrase, no one saves up for anything anymore. They buy now and pay more later. And finally I want to have an emergency savings rather than counting on credit. I realize this is profoundly un-American, but sometimes the American way is overrated.

2 thoughts on “DECLINED!

  1. When I first moved here and was told that I couldn’t get a cell phone plan because I had no credit score, and that I had to get a credit card in order to prove that I was a reliable payer, I laughed in the poor AT&T guy’s face. In Norway it’s considered a bad thing to have many credit cards (although must understand that having one for emergencies can be a good idea), and you are less likely to get loans if you have outstanding debt. I never understood the American system, other than that it must be created by the banks and credit card companies in order to make more money.

  2. You’re doing awesome! Plastic surgery (cutting up your credit cards) is so fun and you will love how people look at you when you pay for everything in cash! I still enjoy it every time….

    I do most of my grocery shopping at Target. Each time the lady asks if I would like a Target card, and I say, “no – I only use cash.” Every time the person seems to look at me like I have three eyes. I am starting to think that this reaction is a sure sign that I am doing something right.

    Recommendation: Dave Ramsey “Total Money Makeover.” He’s a crazy right-winged Christian… but I have to admit I am an atheist for Dave Ramsey. He kicks ass in financial advice. Debt snowball is what you will use to get out… good luck! – JTI

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