Welcome to the second edition of the Foundation Series (learn more about the Foundation series), a series of posts that discusses the very basics of personal finance and hopes to set a “foundation” for a solid financial approach to life. This edition tackles a topic that so many of us are introduced to with little preparation, debit and credit cards.
Part of the reason why we don’t get a gentle introduction is because it’s not in the interests of credit card companies to educate its customers. They introduce cards when you’re most impressionable, like the first few days of college. They give you the terms and conditions in microprint and include dozens of pages, virtually assuring that you won’t read every word. They add in counterintuitive business practices, like universal default and double cycle billing, that appear to go against all conventional wisdom about borrowing. They do this not because they’re trying to screw you, they’re doing it because their responsibility is to the shareholders of their company and the almighty dollar. They’re not trying to bankrupt you, but many aren’t going to hold your hand and, let’s be honest, we’re all adults capable of making our own decisions.
I won’t hold your hand either (sorry! :)) but here’s a brief guide that should prepare you more than a hundred pages of 4 pt. font claiming to be terms and conditions!
(Click to continue reading…)