Would you credit it?

I have just paid my credit card bill. I love doing that. No, I don’t: that was an attempt at wry humour. I sometimes think I should give the damn thing up and enjoy the thrill of cutting it into small pieces with scissors. But no, let’s face it, credit cards are so useful. It’s hard to imagine that there was a time when they didn’t exist.

The trouble with credit cards, of course, is that they invite you to get into debt. Whatever happened to that old advice “Neither a borrower nor a lender be”? It has sunk without trace. If you say that to people today, they are likely to laugh in your face. Debt has ceased to be something to be ashamed of: it is now a way of life. Several of our young friends make no bones about having several credit cards and remaining up to their credit limit on all of them. They regard this as normal. What else are credit cards for?

I have to admit that I once fell into the trap myself. I pass for a fairly sensible and honest fellow so if I got into debt, that shows how easy it is. I had three credit cards and reasoned that you could always resolve a debt by paying a reasonable sum each month. The problem is deciding what is a “reasonable sum”. Gradually the balance increased and increased until I realized that I had to do something about it. If you borrow money, you are spending next month’s wages and when next month comes, you might need that money.

The sensible thing might have been to stop using the cards altogether but, as I said above, they are useful. I paid quite a lot of bills with them because in those days you could put the gas, electricity and phone bills on your card. I sat down and worked out a repayment scheme. It was going to take a while to eliminate the debt but I would get there. At work, we were given a pay rise and this was backdated by several months. I received a substantial sum in my wage packet and could have bought myself something really nice. Several really nice things, in fact. Instead I tossed the whole lot into the credit card black hole. Clunk.

At last the debt was eliminated. I vowed always to pay my monthly bill in full from now on. That was several years ago, and I have kept the vow.

The credit card company probably doesn’t love me as much as it used to do now I don’t get into debt but that doesn’t worry me: they are very greedy institutions. More and more often, I am asked to pay extra to settle my bill by credit card. I think this is outrageous. If this continues and if the companies reinstate annual charges, as they are talking of doing, that will help me decide to abandon credit cards altogether. They make a profit on everything I buy with their card so why should I pay on top for the privilege? For someone who doesn’t intend to get into debt, debit cards provide a viable alternative.

I sometimes wonder what the money of the future will look like. There was a time when, as the advertisement told us, “A gentleman would carry a cheque book”, but these days, cheques have all but disappeared. Electronic banking has replaced the paper kind. Will notes and coins one day disappear altogether? Perhaps we will all have chips embedded in our bodies so we can walk into the theatre or walk out of the supermarket and the chip will engage in silent conversation with the watching computers and pay the bill without any action on our part.


About SilverTiger

I live in Islington with my partner, "Tigger". I blog about our life and our travels, using my own photos for illustration.
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5 Responses to Would you credit it?

  1. Chris says:

    The boss of Barclays bank himself said, back in 2003, that he didn’t use credit cards as they are too expensive, and he advised his own children to follow his example. Says it all really, doesn’t it? Here’s the link to the BBC story if you want it: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/3199822.stm

    As for those subcutaneous microchips, the day they become commonplace may be sooner than you think. Lots about them online — just do a quick G–gle search. There are of course lots of implications about how they should be used and whether they should be used at all, but as a general guide I think it may be useful to remember the phrase ‘Be afraid, be very afraid’.

  2. SilverTiger says:

    As things stand, I am happy to go on using my credit card because I am not charged for using it and I pay off the bill every month, thus incurring no interest charges. It is invaluable when doing the weekly shop or going out to eat, as this saves carrying wads of cash. Also, how else do you book hotels and travel tickets and buy goods online or by phone other than by using your credit card? They are very convenient when used sensibly. What is bad is the way people are (deliberately, in my view) drawn into a vicious circle of debt by money marketeers.

    Our society is advancing technologically at a vertiginous rate. I think that the advances are happening faster than we can take them in and that we are therefore only dimly aware of the dangers to our privacy and freedoms. The present government exudes more than a whiff of control-freakism and I think is deliberately attempting to slip in repressive legislation (e.g. ID cards) under our threshold of consciousness. Without being a Luddite (I enjoy my computer, my mobile and all my other gadgets), I think we need to be more critical of what we allow to be implemented and the rate at which it is introduced.

  3. Baralbion says:

    Let’s not forget that the advice “Neither a borrower nor a lender be” comes from that frightful old bore, Polonius. It is quite impractical in any modern economy.

    It’s many years since I failed to pay my credit card bill in full every month. If you need to borrow money there are cheaper ways of doing it. I use a credit card whenever I can because I hate cash. It’s not much of an advance on paying with brightly coloured beads. It’s inconvenient stuff to carry around and I, at least, have difficulty in counting it. Moreover, a credit card gives you an account of every transaction.

    Chip implants must surely come. My vision of the future of human evolution is the replacement of carbon by silicon. Change will have to be something of that order. For if we project forward over a period of time similar in length to that which has elapsed since life began, life will surely be as different then as life now is different from what it was at its origin.

  4. Chris says:

    [quote]Chip implants must surely come.[/quote]

    Or, since we’re talking about credit cards, maybe that should be chip and pin implants?

  5. SilverTiger says:

    I too value the accountancy potential of credit cards. These days I pay my bill through online banking. A few clicks of the mouse suffice to take care of it.

    Chris’s point is interesting. I remember reading a sci-fi story in which the privileged class could enter the world of plebs via a special portal and leave again by the same way. The door was operated by a chip sintered to the bones of the owner’s arm. You can imagine what happens: the plebs revolt and gain access to the privileged world using a severed arm.

    That was fiction but what is to prevent a similar piece of nastiness occurring in real life? For security’s sake, there would be need of a system that would work only if the chipped individual was alive and unharmed.

    I sometimes wonder what is to stop criminals gaining access to premises protected by iris-recognition systems by pulling out the eyes of someone authorized to enter.

    I think we sometimes rush into new technology without taking a thoughtful look at all the possibilities, legitimate and illegitimate.

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