It’s been many moons but I remember my first credit card. It was a retail card for A&S (remember that store?). I forget what I was buying (a sweater maybe?) but there was a discount offered if you signed up for their card. “What they hey,” I thought. Why not sign up and see what happens? So I did. And a few minutes later I was the proud owner of a new credit card! Ahh, memories.
And I’m not kidding when I say proud. I really did feel good about getting that first card. It was exciting. It was a rush. I had a credit card and could spend without cash! Oh what power! This little piece of plastic could do so much.
Here’s a rundown of how that card gave me a high:
Freedom – I didn’t need to carry cash when I shopped A&S! I could just use my card. This was a first step for cool things to come. Well, that’s what I thought at least.
Adulthood – I was no longer a kid. “They don’t give kids credit cards,” I thought to myself. I was an adult now and can handle real responsibilities, like paying off a credit card. But since I was an adult I could be trusted with a responsibility like a credit card. I was entrusted with a line of credit to use at my disposal. This store believed that I could handle the line of credit they extended to me.
Acceptance/Validation – I worked hard as a teen, working from age 16 on. I earned my money, saved it, and felt good when I could spend it on the things I wanted. My new credit card validated the fact that I was a hard worker that earned money and could pay bills. I was one of the bill-paying adults in the workforce.
These feelings were real. It gave me a thrill to get that card in the mail and keep it in my wallet. I was important (or as important as you can be with a $300 line of credit at a department store).
Of course that wouldn’t be my last credit card. A&S was just one store and it wasn’t the only place I shopped. My next cards were Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s ( I learned from my mom to shop at good stores). Now my bases were better covered. I wasn’t limited to one store.
Next up was a Sam Ash credit card. This card actually scared the bejeezus out of me. See the other card had limits of up to $500 max. Sam Ash gave me $3000! As a young guitar player with a line of credit like that I could easily do some quick damage with just one purchase (if you don’t know Sam Ash is a musical instrument store). Fortunately I had my wits about me and only used the card a couple of times on small things (big instrument purchases would come later on on other credit cards).
I want to let you know I was responsible with my spending in the beginning. I paid off my debts every month and didn’t go crazy with my spending. I knew a person could get in trouble easy with a credit card. I didn’t want that to be me.
I can totally understand why credit card companies would set up tables on college campuses (and hand out items like frisbees and t-shirts). I have a sneaking feeling I’m not the only one who felt the way I did about my first credit card. And this is precisely why the Credit Card Accountability and Disclosure Act (CARD Act) made agreements between credit card companies and universities more transparent as well as limit the ability of someone under 21 to get a credit card. As good as it feels to get a credit card, we aren’t always as wise as we should be once we get one.
It feels great getting a credit card. It can make you feel important and give you a false sense of worth. But really, it’s just a piece of plastic that extends you convenient credit at a steep price if you don’t pay it off in time. The high you get from using a credit card for stuff can quickly turn to buyer’s remorse if you aren’t careful.