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Plastic Persuasion
Wallet and credit cards
Photo: Sanja Gjenero
Two weeks ago I received an unexpected piece of plastic in the mail. You guessed it – another credit card. The odd thing was, I didn’t apply for it. It just slipped out of its envelope and onto my kitchen table like an uninvited guest. There it lay, like forbidden fruit, alluring but dangerous. I stuffed it into a drawer – just in case.

Last week I received a letter from the bank who issued me the card, reminding me I had neglected to activate it. Annoyed with their unsolicited bait, I cut up the card and breathed a sigh of relief.

Today, I read about a three-year-old who received a Platinum VISA card in the mail. When the application for the plastic arrived in the child’s name, her mother jokingly filled it out stating her daughter’s occupation as “toddler” and leaving the income line blank.

Mom wrote on the form, “I’d like to have a credit card to buy some toys but I’m only three and my mommy says, no.” A few weeks later the VISA card arrived in the little girls name with a $5,000 credit limit!

If you’re a young person, you may already know that universities and colleges receive “kick backs” from credit card companies who are allowed to set up booths on academic campuses. These creditors entice students to enter the world of debt while still teenagers, before they fully understand the dangers and pit falls ahead.

Some studies suggest that 78% of college students already have a credit card with an average balance of close to $3,000, while 10% of students have nearly $8,000 worth of credit card debt. Once buried, digging out is difficult and painful but it can be done.

Credit Card Strategies

Following this list of plastic precautions may safeguard your entrance into the world of borrowing while avoiding an avalanche of debt:

1. Wait to get your first credit card until you have a steady job and a savings account.

2. Use your credit card sparingly.

3. Never charge more than you can afford to pay off by the end of your current billing cycle. You will thus avoid     costly finance charges.

4. If you do get in over your head, take a scissors to the plastic and immediately make a plan to pay off the   balance before taking on any more debt.

Handling credit cards wisely is a life long skill acquired through trial, error and self discipline.

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By Kathy A Lewis. Copyright © 2014 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines.

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