Credit Cards

Padded with power here they comeInternational loan sharks backed by the guns Of market hungry military profiteers Whose word is a swamp and whose brow is smeared With the blood of the poor

Bruce Cockburn

Why yes, I did save the absolute worst option for last, how clever of you to notice. Sadly, it is the option most taken by students.

Picture this: My friend and former student Adam is in a jam. He is stuck at school between summer and fall semester and he is broke. Come fall, he will be rolling in cash but, at the moment, he is broke in a college town where there are few job prospects. He has called me for advice. Actually he has called me because he knows I have great student loan contacts but we pretend it’s the advice he wants at first.

After dispensing some advice, I dutifully talk to a friend whose company sells student loans. There is a brief moment of hope, but it fades within a few sentences. Considering his options, I finally sigh and say to my student-loan friend, “I think he needs a credit card.”

“You, of all people, want to give a nineteen year old a credit card?” my friend replies in horror.

“Well,” I explain, understanding her mixture of reservation and shock, “he is twenty-one and if he can find a card that will give him 0% for 6 months, he can put everything he needs to survive on the card for a few months and then pay it off with an additional student loan in the fall. I’m not saying this is the optimum solution, but given his current situation, what other real choices does he have?” (Long heart aching pause on both ends of the phone.)

Don’t ever let this be you. Go back and read the bit about being your own bank just a few pages back. That’s a lot of what I told Adam that sad, sad day. But let’s talk about credit cards . . .