Published On: Fri, Jul 6th, 2012

My Picture Perfect Plan To Not Let My Credit Cards Slip Through Those Swiping Machines

Credit Card TrapI was checking out my credit score the other day — as everyone should — and though it’s decent, it could be better. What’s holding my score from being excellent isn’t debt, which I really don’t have that much of, but the lack of actual credit.

I haven’t had a credit card in years, avoiding them like the plague. I wouldn’t apply for them in case they actually gave me one. I’m not sure when I became allergic to credit cards, but it might go back to when I got my first one in college. I didn’t think much of it, but then one company sent a credit card with the North Carolina A&T mascot on it and said all I had to do was call a toll free number and get to swipin’.

I’ve watched credit cards destroy people in the past and knew better when I made that call to turn off the safety switch. Other than a $20 purchase here and there, maybe two at the most, I only made on serious purchase. At the time, we’re talking the mid-90s, I got a relatively cheap desktop computer for an amazing deal of $1,200. I just started school and computers were the future. I don’t regret the purchase, otherwise I would’ve never learned to blog.

But I didn’t take in consideration that I didn’t have a job, and though the $51 a month payment didn’t look threatening, I simply didn’t have it. And when I did, I spent it at Elizabeth’s Pizza in Greensboro, walking distance to campus, eating pizza and wondering how I was going to afford new software for my new computer.

It didn’t take long before the late fee, service fees, interest and who knows what else ballooned like a subprime loan. Next ting I knew, the balance soared past the maximum credit. I’d make a token payment and the next bill was for more than before I made the payment. I talked to them, not wanting to avoid the situation, but creditors aren’t known for their social skills. They talked to me as if I stole the card from them; not as if they begged me to call the toll free number which I know realize wasn’t really a free call. It cost me hundreds of dollars that I had nothing to show for. And a computer not worth the hand-me-down desk I had it perched on.

Regardless, credit cards are an essential part of building credit. It’s amazing how you have to spend money to gain access to it. But with Najwa already approaching her second birthday, Nduku and I wanting to travel abroad more often and purchasing a house in the works, it’s time to add a few more points on my stagnant credit score.

I have two credit cards on their way, and believe me when I say I’m not looking for to it. But I have to make a little a $20 purchase here and there, maybe two at the most, and then pay the minimum balance on time to get the score up. Swipe, pay off, repeat. I got this. To be sure I don’t accidentally swipe the card and come home with a new 62 inch LED 3D HDTV, I have a plan.

Capital One CardCapital One has the option to select a photo for the card, so I chose a photo to remind me why I got the card. Now every time I pull out the plastic weapon of mass destruction, there’s Nduku reminding me that we like to travel [a photo from our trip to Dubai] and that won’t happen with $300 a month credit card bills.

But it’s about more than paying back credit debt. It something else I didn’t learn until later in life. Credit cards aren’t supposed to replace cash. It’s a convenient option to spend the cash you have or are about to have. In other words, if you don’t have the money in cash, you simply can’t afford it in plastic. Being the adventurous nomad I’ve been for years, saving money hasn’t always been a priority. I live spartan, I don’t own any Jordans and money has always been the flying carpet that took me from one home to the next.

Fortunately, Nduku has forced me reassess my habits, dedicate myself to making saving money a priority and want to make a change. So I am. Actually, it feels a bit liberating to know I have money in savings, a budding 529 college fund for Najwa, another savings account for retirement, some monies in investments I started again using ShareBuilder and a life insurance plan for Najwa. I put away so much money in savings and investments that I’m still living paycheck to paycheck, only I actually have savings now.

Soon the plastic I’ve avoided for years will be here, but I’m wiser now to know how to swipe them safely. No brand new digital SLR with f/2.8 zoom lens; no Redskins season tickets; no $1,200 computer to blog about how much debt I’m in.

Got to get my score past 740 so I can get a bigger credit limit to buy all those things I’m putting on my wishlist!

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About the Author

David Gaines

- David Gaines is a Washington, DC, resident transplanted from North Carolina whose dream career was a newspaper writer but settled for the recruiting industry and simply blogging about whatever thoughts crosses his mind.

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