Saturday, April 5, 2008

Swipe That Grin Off Your Face!

When I tell people I used to be a telemarketer, they treat me like I'm some kind of reformed convict, perhaps an ex-child pornographer or lawyer.

“How did you live with yourself?” is a typical question I'm asked.

More sympathetic types have been known to say, “It took a lot of courage to admit your shame.”

Sometimes I hear, “you appear to have moved on, but your soul remains tainted with the putrid blackness of unmitigated corporate greed. Be gone, vile monster!”

Truth be told, I do feel a slight pang of guilt from the two months I spent trying to sell little pieces of plastic to people who would most likely use them to financially ruin themselves.

So I'd like to redeem myself a little by offering come credit advice, particularly for young people.

When I walked on campus at the University of Maine for the first time as an 18-year old, the first thing that was handed to me was a credit card application.

I wasn't sure what to put under “household income,” so I added up my income with everyone else who was living with me at the time (five roommates), plus all their parents (since they were helping out with bills).

A couple of weeks later I received a Gold Card, which I thought was a pretty big deal. I went around suavely charging things to my Gold Card, giving cashiers a sophisticated nod every time I conspicuously pulled it from my wallet.

Sometimes I would proclaim, louder than necessary, “I think I will charge this to my... Gold Card.”

I found out later that the Gold Card is actually not very prestigious. I might as well have been carrying around a Dirt Card.

I didn't know about the Platinum Card, the Platinum Plus Card, the Premium Platinum-Titanium Card with Extreme Sheen, etc.

So my first bit of advice is to not look at your credit card as a symbol of prestige. It is merely a tool for borrowing money in a manner that could potentially crush your spirit.

I've been fortunate. I still have my Gold Card, and I use it all the time. Here are some other tips on how to maintain a credit card account in good standing (“good standing” is defined as “not many people with weapons torturing your relatives in order to learn your whereabouts”):

- Be sure to get a “fixed” interest rate. A lot of credit card companies will try to lure you in with a low interest rate, such as zero percent. Then, once you've had the card for a few hours, they jack up the rate to about 45 percent. Of course, if you...

- Pay off your full balance every month, you never have to worry about interest rates. In order to do this, you may need to occasionally sell limbs. But it will be easier if you...

- Keep your credit limit low, no matter how badly the bank wants to raise it for you because you are a “valued account holder.”

This will help you control your own spending, and limit any damage that could be done if someone else got hold of your card and tried to use it to fund a war or something.

If it's too late, and you already have an unmanageable balance on your credit card, don't worry. I would be happy to help you out with a balance transfer. I can offer you an introductory 0% APR for the first six months, and then...


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