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Credit Card: Status Symbol?

April 22, 2008

I am normal (yes, I really am). In the past, I also wanted to have a credit card.

It was fascinating, the way some people presented only a piece of plastic to pay for their purchases. I’d look at their faces and, on some of them, I’d see a mixture of satisfaction, haughtiness (in your face!) and glee. They were satisfied because they obviously earned enough to get approved for a credit card. They were haughty because they felt their credit card set them apart. They were gleeful because while they only had to flash their plastics, others had to pay with (yuck!) cash.

These people usually held up the lines – yes, it is never a simple matter of flashing your card to check out your purchases. The cashier would get the card, swipe it, push buttons, print two copies of the receipt (or try to, realize there’s no paper, get a fresh roll, chat with others while doing it, chat with others on the way, get back to the machine, arrange the paper just so, try to print again but the paper would snag, shake the contraption, replace the paper, print again), then present the receipt to the card holder. The card holder would look at the receipt then scratch something on it (ah! their signature), return the receipt to the cashier, get her copy, gather up her bags or whatever it is she has purchased and leave – perhaps at least 10 minutes after the whole process started.

The other people in the line would naturally be annoyed as they watch the whole thing unfold. They’d gnash their teeth, shake their heads and maybe even try to look for a different line. They would look ready to maim and kill, forgetting the fact that they were, in fact, in a line meant for people paying with their credit credits. But at the back of their minds, mingling with the annoyance they were feeling, is a little bit of envy. Much as they were annoyed by the delay that card-toting people cause in lines, this does not stop them from wanting to get a credit card, too, and impose the same brand of torture on others. Notice that in a few months’ time, the moment their salaries reached the minimum required by credit card companies, these same people would themselves be wearing a mixture of satisfaction, haughtiness and glee on their faces, and they would also be holding up the lines.

It’s a good thing I’ve learned about how tricky credit cards are before I fell into the same trap. They are the devil incarnate, they burn a hole in your wallet. They are the source of the voiceless whispers – the modern-day snake in the Garden of Eden – “hissss… ssshhhhh… hissss… isn’t that dress lovely? you’d look oh, so good in it. why don’t you buy your friends dinner today and be worshipped for life? show your former classmates that you are young and successful (see high school musical after 10 years), why don’t you? don’t worry about the money. use your credit card. what is it for anyway if not for these kinds of “emergencies” ssshhhh… hissss…. ssshhhh…

He he, I got carried away by the snake sounds, sorry. Anyway, the fact remains that credit cards make spending above and beyond your means very easy. You’d never have probably contemplated buying that P25,000 guitar or that P40,000 handheld gadget if you did not have a credit card to use, right?

Oh! Excuse me, those of you who are rich enough to afford that guitar or that device on a whim. I was not talking to you. (bitter, no? he he he)

Credit cards make it easy to gratify your every craving and wish. In the process, your innate values are undermined. See the “Wise Up on Credit Cards Series” starting with “The Devil Wears Plastic” for a good discussion on this.

Credit cards will probably do no harm and, may even do some good, in the hands of a responsible credit card user. In the hands of an immature individual, however, (what else will you call a person who gets a credit card because it is considered a badge of success?), the results can only be disastrous.

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. Madraida permalink
    September 25, 2008 9:28 am

    What’s the fuss all about? I’ve had a credit card in the PH since I was an undergraduate and I never thought it “set me apart” from other people. It was just a convenience I very much appreciated. And no, I never spent beyond my means because I always know how much I have in my bank account when I make my CC purchases. The plastic card was just a convenient way of paying without having to carry cash around, having to remember to withdraw cash from an ATM, having to go to an ATM, etc., etc.
    Plus, it makes auditing personal expenses a lot easier when all my expenses are listed in my billing statement.

    Processing a CC payment shouldn’t take 10 minutes. That’s more the fault of the store (antiquated POS machines?) than of using a CC.

    I like getting rewards points too which I don’t get if I pay in cash.

    And now, with items sold cheaper on the internet, I buy most things online. I can’t use cash for that.
    Using a CC is safer too than using cash. It just takes one phone call to report a stolen CC and, presto, you’re not liable for all those fraudulent charges. What could I do if my cash gets stolen?

    I don’t like carrying my debit card and having to key in my PIN on all those checkout POS machines. If I were going to carry a debit card, it would be on a separate account reserved for just making “cash – debit card” purchases.

    I have an interesting experience with other people though with regards to having a CC. It wasn’t common then (early 80s) for students to have a CC. For some people who are not familiar with CC’s, they tend to view CC’s as an unlimited source of funds, just like how you described it in your blog. I had a friend who, after getting into some business financial problems, asked me to withdraw X thousands of pesos for her using my CC. I said, “are you crazy? There is nothing to withdraw from a CC. When you take out cash using a CC, that is a cash advance for which you pay interest daily.” Needless to say, I don’t look at her with fondness anymore. It’s extremely tacky for a person to ask a friend to go into debt for her, particularly when that person didn’t bother repaying the cash that was loaned out to her later.

  2. Jinky Bagagñan permalink
    May 5, 2008 4:25 pm

    I saw this “drama” played out again yesterday. My sister purchased a Yale lock and paid using her credit card in a “cash and charge” counter. Two other people were waiting in line with her and you can see their hackles rising the longer the sales lady took to process my sister’s credit card payment. They were looking at my sister’s credit card with mean eyes; they were. Really.🙂

  3. Jinky Bagagñan permalink
    May 3, 2008 9:48 pm

    Hi Angelica,

    You said it. Credit cards can be dangerous. Like you, I prefer debit cards to credit cards. I actually prefer cash to either of them, but I’m not blind to the financial management benefits that plastic or card payment has. 🙂

    Thank you for your comment! Feel free to drop by again some time.

    – Jinky

  4. May 3, 2008 2:56 pm

    I don’t know what it’s like where you live but in Sweden people paying with cards don’t nescessarily use credit cards. I myself have a card connected to my bank account which when my account is empty isn’t worth shit.

    I think credit cards can be quite dangerous. Like the snake whispered, it’s easy to get carried away when you see something pretty, thinking that the monetary situation might be different in a couple of weeks when the bill arrives. Mostly it’s not though.

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