The Hollywood Approach to managing my credit cards

Once I’d paid off my credit card debt this week, the next part of my credit card confrontation was to examine the amount of interest I’ve been paying, to compare mine with what’s on the market and to work out what my credit card plan of action should be going forward.

The comparison part was both easy and an utter bore. That’s once I actually worked out what the interest rate actually is for my Barclaycard VISA (19.94) and my Virgin Mastercard (29.95). It’s criminal how difficult it was to track down this most basic piece of information about both my cards.

ABOUT THE INTEREST RATES

Yes the Mastercard is ridiculously high & the VISA about a percent above the best deals out there. The reason for the nasty Mastercard rate is that I applied for the card several years ago for a 0% interest deal. And whenever a company offers 0% interest it’s important to see what rate it will revert back to after the deal expires. In my case I paid the debt on the card without ever using the card to collect fresh debt, so I haven’t ever had to pay the horrible rate. The card has lain dormant since about 2008.

SO, CANCEL THE CARD I HEAR THE HECKLERS CALL

In many parts of the world it’s not possible to use my normal bank (debit) card so I need a credit card. And in any case, I use my bank card constantly and based on that teacher called Past Experience it’s not only possible but likely that I’ll misplace it temporarily several times each year — and permanently roughly every 18 months.

BUT WHY TWO CREDIT CARDS?

It takes moments of life and often very tedious phone calls proving who I am to cancel a card. But the big reason is that some part of me believes it would be reckless to cancel a piece of plastic that would give me 10,000 grand if I asked it to.

I tell myself what I imagine lots of people tell themselves — that I might have a very expensive emergency …  or, that I might need to go on the lam!

Even if no other part of my life has lived up to Hollywood standards, I have to admit that I do believe that there really are improbable though possible circumstances that would force me on the run … though I can’t think what.

Contemplating the usual movie scenarios … my husband/boyfriend could turn psycho a la Sleeping with the Enemy. But since I don’t actually have a husband/boyfriend that’s not a live possibility. [But why waste time re-applying for an emergency credit card when I get one?] Mulling over other on-the-run stories I guess I have to admit that no, I’m not an investigative journalist so that’s another reason I don’t need to keep my passport, cash and a card stashed into a safe place should the criminals and/or secret government agents discover the massive expose I’m about to publish about them in The Washington Post.

But even so, there are still 3 reasons to keep the credit cards that I have:

1. It makes me feel as if Hollywood things could in theory happen to me (and really, that’s the sort of feeling that money was invented to buy!)

2. Mundane life does throw up emergency credit card situations … the particular examples of which I feel too superstitious to write outloud [think death and disaster.]

3. The having-a-card-that-works-outside-the UK reason I’ve already mentioned

FINE, BUT IS THERE A NEED FOR 2 CREDIT CARDS?

Yes, because it doubles the cash to which I’ve access and because my wallet could be stolen so it’s good to keep one of them off my person.

SO, GOING FORWARD … HERE’S WHAT I’M THINKING

1. Keep the credit cards, but don’t use them unless Hollywood things happen  2. Get a personal AMEX

I haven’t mentioned it, but I do have a 3rd piece of plastic — my corporate AMEX  … I only use it for work expenses for which I get reimbursed  (in theory), that’s the subject of another post … and in examining all the plastic in my wallet this past week it struck me that AMEX seems to offer a much deal than normal credit cards.

GETTING AN AMEX

An AMEX is a charge card, not a credit card. It gets paid off every month so there’s no interest. It’s like a bank card but I can use it in international places (like hotels). An AMEX, unlike my bank card and both my credit cards, gives me POINTS.  And if I apply for the British Airways AMEX I might get quite a lot of points if I use my AMEX all the time.

Last year I flew to Santiago, Boston (twice), New York (twice), Dublin, Gothenburg, St. Lucia, Frankfurt, Rome and probably a couple of other places I can’t remember right now.

British Airways or their partner airlines go to all of those places.

So even though there is some skepticism (mine and Lisa’s) about miles being all that helpful, I’d like to see how many flights I might be able to get free over the course of 2012.

So I’ve applied for a BA AMEX and await their verdict. I’m not sure if I should be insulted by the message they sent to me just after I applied … I’ll keep you posted.

* * *

To: Nathalie Hourihan
Subject: Your American Express application

Thank you for applying for the British Airways American Express Premium Plus Card. We do try to give everyone an instant decision on their application, but it’s not always possible. Unfortunately we are unable to give you a final decision today.

We just need to do a few extra checks before your application can be processed and we will let you know the final decision within the next 10 working days.

If you have any questions please call our new accounts team on 0800 587 3724 and quote reference number: EXTREMELY LONG NUMBER.

American Express New Accounts representatives are available to answer your application questions from 8 am to 8 pm Monday through Friday.

Thank you for your patience.

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2 thoughts on “The Hollywood Approach to managing my credit cards

  1. I cancelled my credit card when I finally paid off my debt. My theory is that if I ever desperately need one for hollywood reasons I can probably get one, banks make it quite easy. In fact the reason I had that credit card in the first place is because it came with a free super soaker and I wanted a super soaker (I was a first year student at the time, although I think I’d still be tempted by a free super soaker).

    But then I don’t really travel abroad much. In recent years it’s been once a year or so to see family/friends in Germany. Before that once every 2 years. And before that twice in my first 18 years of life.

    When I do I tend to change money in advance so I stick to budget and then take out money from foreign cash machines and pay stupid charges when I run out.

    I can see why you’re keeping your cards. And Jen has a credit card when we have emergencies so I do still sort of have one myself. But I felt really liberated cutting that thing up. It took so long to get out of debt and it was a great symbol of liberation.

    We only managed to get rid of the cards and hideous overdrafts due to a bereavement. We’re determined to keep clear of it now.

    1. What’s a super soaker?? I believe it’s a water gun … ?

      I think if I weren’t

      a. very likely to be travelling
      &
      b. able to pay the levels of debt I tend to get into (and I certainly was not always able to do this in the past!) I’d have to think a lot harder about NOT cutting up the credit card

      Which is why I’m pretty excited to see if I can’t get myself the AMEX charge card — that would feel like the most productive way of using plastic to pay without running the risk of letting debt pile up… but we’ll see.

      Recently the BBC ran a 3-part documentary on people and their money and in one part there was a woman who has had to file for bankruptcy which means she’s not allowed to have an overdraft or a credit card and must live on a certain amount ea. money — she also said that in a weird way she found it liberating.

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