I don’t like credit cards. I don’t like the entire notion of the credit system here in America. It’s too easily disrupted, skewed, abused and heavily-relied upon in general. It’s a huge scam that we’ve all bought into, but…it’s also not going anywhere any time soon.
The one small, tiny thing that I do to combat the credit system is that I don’t have a credit card. Not a single one. Sure, I have a car loan. We have a home loan. There are a million other unstickable ways in which I am entrenched in the credit system, but having a credit card is not one of them.
I’m of the mind that I shouldn’t be buying things unless I have the cash in my pocket to do it. With the dual exceptions of the car and the house, I don’t see the sense in buying things on credit and paying interest to someone else when that money could be in your own accounts, earning you interest until the day comes along when you can finally afford to buy that couch or those shoes or that TV. But what if there’s an emergency? you ask. Well, that’s what all that money that should be in your savings accounts, accruing interest, should be used for, since you aren’t spending it on paying credit card bills each month.
My husband, however, is a dutiful consumer and does in fact have several credit cards. He’s extremely frugal with them and does clever little things like buy a tank of gas and some groceries with one card and pay it off the next month. To build credit, he says. And he does have a spotless credit record to show for it, whereas I — the stubborn asshole that I am — don’t. I have a mediocre credit report with remarks on it like, “No credit history” and “Insufficient credit history,” as if refusing to buy into the system immediately gets you blacklisted.
Back to my husband… Wanting to maintain his system of buying a few things with one of the cards and then paying it off, he gave me his credit card this weekend to buy some things for our upcoming trip abroad. I set off to several stores, in the market for some winter boots and a couple of warm sweaters. And this is where my disgust for credit cards comes into play.
I went to six different stores on Sunday — a shoe store, jewelry store, clothing store, grocery store, drug store, and a coffee shop — and every single one of them blindly accepted Richard’s credit card without thought. Three of the stores asked to see my ID, which I provided, and pretended to compare the ID and the credit card. None of the stores seemed to bat an eyelash at the fact that I was not, in fact, my husband.
My husband and I don’t share the same last name, much less the same first name. My driver’s license has my full name on it, not his. And I’m clearly not a “Richard.” Yet every single store let me use his credit card without a second glance.
I watched each merchant, more amused each time, just waiting for someone to point out that my ID and the credit card I was presenting didn’t remotely match one another. But it never happened… And right there is why I hate credit cards.
Why put your entire life and well-being into a network which has no safeguards in place to ensure that someone else can’t come along and use the credit which you have so carefully constructed and maintained? Identity theft is a rampant problem in today’s society, yet the credit system has made little to no adjustment to compensate for that threat. It’s like knowing that criminals carry guns, yet refusing to protect your law enforcement officers with Kevlar.
Sure, the credit card companies have a few of their own safeguards in place, like monitoring your card to make sure that no “unusual” purchases or transactions are made. Same thing with your bank. But what about the credit bureaus themselves? The Experians and TransUnions and Equifaxes? Have you ever tried to get a bogus or erroneous record removed from your credit report? Tried to get your credit cleaned up after an identity theft? Good luck.
I don’t have a single answer as to what better system could replace our current credit boondoggle. In fact, with my hyper-Libertarian attitude, I’m probably a really poor person to ask in the first place. All I know is that in my ideal country, in addition to not having any executive branch departmental agencies (i.e., Department of Education, Department of Agriculture, the IRS) and only a few independent federal agencies (you can stick around, U.S. Postal Service), there would be a complete abolition of all credit bureaus, too.
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