There are a lot of people out there who have a negative opinion of credit cards and credit card companies. Much of these complaints center around the interest rates charged and the ease with which a person can get into debt. The problem I see with those arguments, and this is my opinion, is that those issues both center on how the user decides to handle their access to credit. It’s no secret that I love using credit cards, and I am pro-credit and believe that credit cards are useful tools when used properly. What you may not know is that I did not always use my own access to credit the right way. Actually, it’s safe to say I was a damn fool and stupid for how I used it in my younger days!
I’ll be honest with all of you reading this–when I was younger, I was in a great deal of credit card debt. So what happened? Did I have someone on my college campus feed me some bull about earning rewards or cash back or the freedom and maturity of having a credit card? Did someone hold a gun to my head and force me to hop from store to store making purchases for them? Did a representative from the credit card company mislead me regarding what can happen if I didn’t pay in full? Was I convinced that credit was a “loan” that didn’t need repaying? Did the credit card try tricking me with complicated and hidden rules & terms in the disclosures and credit agreement?
I was in my early 20’s, renting an apartment with a roommate who was both a friend and colleague, and I had yet to find myself. I was very much into material possessions, thinking that having more stuff was the way to live, and I was very interested in consumer electronics and computers. I had spent an inordinate amount of money buying parts to build multiple computers, wasting tons of money on a home entertainment system with a 400-disc DVD changer, 1,000 watt stereo receiver, premium cabling, touch screen multi-function remote controls (well before the advent of tablet computers) and much more. I purchased a $1,000 head unit for my car. At one point I would go out with friend and buy trays of shot tubes for everyone just because I could. I was just an out of control kid, who flat out couldn’t control my spending and was in for over $20,000 which was almost as much as I was earning in a single year.
I was responsible for the mess I was in. I knew that and blamed no one else but the person looking back at me in the mirror. Sure, I went through the normal stages of frustration, denial, and wonderment as to how I could possibly get into this situation. But, there was never any doubt in my mind who was really at fault–ME! I was the one who got myself in that situation and me alone.
Being educated beyond the 3rd grade, I knew how to read, so I was able to comprehend the fact that if I charged something I needed to pay the balance at the end of the billing cycle. I was able to understand the fact that if I didn’t pay my bill in full I would be charged interest. I knew that if I didn’t, or couldn’t, pay my bill it could have a negative impact on my credit report and even be grounds for legal action. I knew that the ultimate responsibility would rest on my shoulders.
So if a kid in his early 20’s can understand and accept the consequences of his actions, what is the problem with all of the people out there who get themselves into their own debt troubles yet have to point to the evil credit card companies? Why is it the credit card issuers’ faults for extending lines of credit that you cannot handle properly? Why is it always the bank who brands the card you use that has to shoulder the responsibility for your lack of proper use or understanding of credit?
Believe me, I understand the power that you can feel when wielding a credit card, feeling that the world is at your fingertips. I know full well what it feels like to be able to walk into a store and grab anything you see and be able to walk out the door with it. But, I also know what it means to take responsibility for your own actions. You can’t go through life pointing fingers at everyone else for your own shortcomings when it comes to being unable to control your spending. There are times when you simply have to stand up and say “I did this. I got myself in trouble with credit card debt and no one else!” It doesn’t matter if you have credit available to spend, there’s no reason to use all of it when you have no means to repay it, and there’s no one forcing you to do so.
There has to be some personal accountability when it comes to credit card debt, and people need to learn to stop playing the victim already. Period.
Have you ever been in credit card debt? Did you take responsibility or try to put the blame on the company that gave you the credit card? Did you feel obligated to use the credit extended to you simply because it was there?