Credit Cards are Not Your Friend

Many people in my circle have wallets full of credit cards, and they act like these cards are doing them a favor when they are able to conveniently swipe one for something they couldn’t otherwise purchase. They cannot imagine what they would do without them, like an old friend who’s always there for you.

Credit card companies are not in business to make your life easier, to send you gallivanting around the world with free miles, or to provide you help with building a good credit score. They are in business FOR THE MONEY. I know you know this already, but let’s just start there.

They make bah bah billions on us schmucks that are just trying to make “ends meet” when we run out of money at the end of the month. Or the savvy travelers who are racking up “monthly spend” limits in hopes of a free flight to Shanghai. Or the young’uns who were given a card and a free T-shirt at their college orientation event and decide to put their expensive books on it – no harm in that right? It’s just too easy.

Even when credit cards send you the nicest, most convenient letters in the mail with blank checks included! Even when they offer you a year of no interest. Even when they will let you balance transfer ALL your other credit card debt onto theirs. Even when they give you 10,000 Bonus miles. Even when they tell you that you can “skip a payment” for the Holidays. THEY ARE NOT DOING THIS BECAUSE THEY ARE NICE.

They know something you don’t know. They know that statistically, the House always wins in the end. They know that once in a while you’ll miss the fine print. They know that most of those miles expire, most of those balance transfers will not be paid off by the end of the promotional period, and that you will, about one month out of a dozen or so, miss your payment date (especially when they change it). They know this.

Look, I’m not saying you’re not smart. I’m smart! I could probably win this game most of the time. But why even play when the odds are stacked against you? They would not offer all these “rewards” if it didn’t make them gobs of money. They are not Santa. They may be the Grinch!

Just a few of the many, many reasons I’ve opted out of the credit card game:

  • To simplify my financial life. No bills, no balances, no payments.
  • To reduce risk.
  • So I don’t have anxiety when I realize I missed the payment date and have to wait on hold trying to beg them to reverse the fees.
  • So I have incentive to keep my emergency fund accessible – without credit cards to fall back, the need for actual cash is much higher. (If you don’t plan ahead, credit card companies will be happy to bail you out.)
  • To preserve my independence – owe nothing to anyone.
  • Because literally not a single person has ever gotten rich off their credit card rewards.
  • Because there is nothing I cannot buy with my debit card instead.
  • Because just like Oscar Wilde, I can resist everything but temptation. (And it’s very tempting to swipe the card and figure out how to pay for it next month.)

What about you – is your best friend a credit card? Are you winning the game, or did you opt out?

After majoring in Business Finance in college, Samantha became a Financial Advisor with a big five investment bank. Becoming quickly disillusioned with the emphasis on sales rather than advising, she left the industry. She and her husband have paid off over $180k in debt and she has since obtained her MBA. Samantha is passionate about helping other women take control of their money! She has no conflicts of interest and is not getting paid to recommend any investment products.

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