This is a guest post from Claire Marion, a recent graduate who recalls her tales of how her credit card habits have evolved over the years.
Like many, my credit card habits have evolved. It has been a learning experience to say the least, and I am sure that’s only going to continue. It all began when I was 16, away at school for the first time, emergency credit card in hand. These were my blissful ‘co-signer’ years, which unfortunately did not last long. Though this card was meant to cover extra costs, like school books, sport equipment and even the occasional dinner out, it was not mean to cover clothes from the high street, clothes bought online, clothes I somehow found in my school’s tiny town, or any other place. After over a year of battling my inability to resist charging, not to mention my father, I was demoted to a debit card.
It was not until my second year at university that my privileges were reinstated, though this time my parents had wised up. I received my first credit card in my name, a Chase College Visa. The card had a lower limit and was tied to my current account, a positive which seemed like the end of the world - I would have to pay it off in full each month.
In reality, it did help curb my spending. I was used to checking my bank account balance online, so watching the credit card balance was not too horribly different. For a while I stayed on the straight and narrow, charging what I had the money to pay for, slowly building my own credit (a perk of a student credit card). That is until my semester abroad.
If the first chapter in my credit card biography is called ‘Charging with Complete Abandonment’ the second would be called ‘Blindsided by an Exchange Rate’. Though I knew the exchange rate, for some reason I never could see the reality that the £50 Top Shop dress really cost me $100 dollars and that topping up your Oyster card really should be budgeted for. I studied abroad in London, in 2007, when the dollar to pound exchange rate was 1:2 (lucky me).
Now, a recent graduate at my first job, I am happy to have had such a cushy start. Despite having cringed at the idea of going over my most recent bill with my father, I never had to experience credit card debt, or spiking interest rates. I recently got an air miles card. It lives in the back of my wallet and I basically only use it for large, planned purchases. Still it’s better than spending blindly. Eventually I am sure I will build up my credit card spending, but right now this is just enough.