Living Without Credit Cards
Not everyone has credit cards, or likes to use them. Here are some of those people:
I have never owned a credit card in my life. I know I probably should get one so as to build up my credit, which I suspect but don’t know is not great, since one time in college when I was away for three months on an internship, my roommates did not pay any of the bills, which were all in my name. I also have never checked my credit score. In fact, to this point, I have been living my life as though credit does not exist and I fear that by acknowledging it now I may, Beetlejuice-style, summon it down upon me. I should go.
My friends are usually surprised that I don’t have a credit card. I had one for two years in my early 20s for the same reason that many people get one. “Building credit” is necessary for many things (borrowing money from banks, renting cars, etc.)
I tend to spend most of my money on booze and food anyway, so I just ended up just spending more money on more booze and more food. I was spending money I didn’t have on shit I didn’t need.
The only other time I had ever been in debt was to repay a legal bill. The idea that I owed anyone anything, even if it was for a few hundred bucks, was frightening. Hearing stories of my friends who are five, ten, twenty grand in debt, I just can’t imagine what that’s like.
The only recent incident in which not having a credit card burned me was when I bought two 24-hour CitiBike passes for my friend and I. They put a hold on my debit card for more than $200 for around 10 days! I ate beans and rice for a week.
I do have a credit card but I have not used it since August. This is because I lost it in August. They sent the first replacement card to an old address, which I found out two months later to call and say “where is my credit card.” Then they never sent me another one even though they said they would because I hadn’t paid my balance ($146) because I had no card. Then last week I took a bunch of cash to a bank and gave them my ID and a social security number and paid the whole balance. At some point this week I will get around to calling them and saying “please give me a credit card again,” which I will proceed to use never again out of spite.
I have one now, but I didn’t for a very long time. Why did I need it? I just always used my debit card or cash. On some level I literally don’t think I understood why you would buy something you didn’t have the money to pay for. Lack of imagination I guess coupled with privilege coupled with extreme aversion to risk.
I only got it to make sure that i would have good credit for when we bought an apartment. When I did get one, I couldn’t because I never had one—my husband had to co-sign. It turned out i didn’t even exist in the financial world before i got one. I was some kind of specter.
The only credit card I’ve ever been approved for is a medical credit card, which I got this year to pay for chiropractic services during a time in which I was having horrible back pain. I’m paying it off, $100 per month, until April 2014.
I don’t have a “real” credit card (for like, groceries and clothes and Christmas presents [eek]), because I could never get approved for one in the past. Now that I’ve built up some decent credit from the medical card and student loan payments, I’m sure I could find one to approve me. It’s weird, though, because 2 years ago I was making $46K and I couldn’t get approved for the life of me. I’m making considerably less now, though. Maybe I should try to apply! But mostly, I don’t want to because I am scared of just being more in debt.
I don’t have a credit card because I am currently in the midst of filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy and you have to stop using your cards on the date you file.
Especially as we grew older, my parents would occasionally talk to me and my sisters about their credit cards. They had just two or three cards in rotation at a time, carefully selected for their benefits and lack of fees, and they always, always, ALWAYS paid them off in full at the end of each month. Once or twice this was augmented by little speeches about the hidden folly of the American dream: living how you wished you could live, bolstered by credit, instead of living how you could afford to live. The lesson totally sank in — so well, in fact, that to this day I’ve never owned a credit card. Me and my debit card and my checkbook and my mostly-reasonable purchases get along just fine!
My parents also stressed the importance of having a great (not just a good) credit score, so I should probably just give in and get a starter card to put my groceries on. To be honest, though, the American dream continues to freak me out: your economic trustworthiness in the eyes of society—your economic worth itself, really—is judged by your ability to pay back monthly loans to enormous corporations, rewarded in the form of a magical and totally opaque number that determines whether you’ll be allowed to owe money to other enormous corporations, and punished with crushing interest? I’ll keep opting out for now.