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.
Chris Gagner @ SmartPF.com says
The first credit card is usually the hardest to cut out of your life. They were the first ones that said that you “someone!” They believed in you and gave you credit when you had never had it before. They gave you that freedom, adulthood, and validation.
I doubt any card was harder to cut up than the first one.
Well, I think for some, if they are neck deep in credit card debt then cutting it up may be easy!
My first card became obsolete but I still have a couple of my earliest ones (which is good for your credit score).
Joe Morgan says
That’s so true, Chris!
My first credit card was a Capital One Visa. It had a $300 limit, and I still have it today. The limit’s been increased to $7,000, but I never use it because the rate is too high, and the rewards are utterly useless. But it’s still with me, like an old friend…. just in case I need it. 🙂
Is it really sad that I got a little of that feeling back (not like that first one, and boy do I know exactly what you are saying) when I got my gold amex in the mail? I only did it because of the 50K points for spending an amount equal to what I had to pay for a new couch, but still!
Oh, I felt so cool when I got a Gold Amex! Similarly, I did it for the points and because the card was free for a year. After the year I canceled it. I think I was able to get Prince tickets because of the card so it certainly had its benefits.
I was also happy when they offered me a Platinum card but there was no way I was paying to $400+ just to say I have it.
Nowadays, I use my cards for points and that’s that. I have no use for extra credit (though I’ve been considering a business card).
James Fowlkes says
Ooooo, I remember my virgin credit card experience. It was Spring Break I think my Junior year of college down in Daytona (evil place, btw) Anyway, I fell for the old “Free t-shirt” thing. Remember the movie Striptease with Demi Moore? It had that on it and like a girl on a pole of something. I don’t know why but I had to have it. So, I applied for the blah-blah-trick-college-student Citibank Visa and was on my way. I still think it was worth it. I wore that shirt until it was basically falling a part… loved that shirt…
Well, at least you got some good use out of the t-shirt! My college credit card was offering up a Koosh ball. It was a warm Spring day and I had some time before my next class to I figured, “why not?”
I still have that card (not the Koosh), but I certainly paid the card company back in interest plus!
I got my first credit card when I was 29 (I’m 33 now) and only for two reasons: I was going to live abroad for a year and a card could be useful (which it was) and because I got it through and agreement my employer had with Visa and Citibank. I felt like Peter Parker being told “with great power comes great responsibility”, as if I was receiving a loaded gun or something I had to use wisely. It has a limit of 8,100 and I used it wisely until last year, when I got a second credit card (with a 7,600 limit). I fell into a 10,000 debt and even though I’ve never missed a payment nor have borrowed money to pay my debt (not even during a brief period I was unemployed), I regret breaking my responsible habits. In two months both cards will be paid in full and as soon as it is done, one of them will be cancelled. I’ll keep the oldest one just to maintain my spotless credit score. No more impulse shopping anymore. I’m starting to save and invest in order to buy my first house in a couple of years. PLEASE, be wise when you use your credit card.
It feels great when you start out responsible but then somewhere you flip a switch and next you know, you’re in the hole to the credit card companies. Glad to hear you’ll have your debt paid off soon.
It was a great feeling to get my first credit card but I was not ready for the responsibility and racked up $1500 of debt in the space of a month (this was back in the 70s). I gave my credit card to my roomate with instructions not to give it back until I had a zero balance. It took me months to pay that off but it was a valuable lesson that I’ve never forgotten. I only buy what I can afford to pay — I’ve not had a balance on my CCs since then!
An expensive, but valuable lesson! Glad you learned it early. Some don’t. And you had a real trustworthy roommate too!
Khaleef @ KNS Financial says
My first credit card was to Macys! It had a $300 limit and I used it to buy a portable CD player about 13 years ago. It was definitely a great feeling that I was being accepted by a major corporation!
Those retail stores know how to snag people, don’t they!