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Falling for Credit Card “Savings”


Let’s just start by saying I meant to pay it on time. I really did.

But, I had to return a couple of things — so I didn’t want to pay the full balance and then end up with credit on the account. You see, they’d offered me 30 percent off my purchases just for using their store credit card. So I bought first and asked questioned and tried on later. Then I needed to return something else — so I delayed paying the bill a little longer.

Then it was the first day of school. And then Ted gave me a deadline (yeah, okay, technically I had had the deadline for two months). And it wasn’t in my routine of bill paying, since I don’t normally use store credit cards. So, the bill did not get paid.

Then, last night it hit me in all its fierce fury: it was the last day to pay the credit card bill. Frantically, I got on the web site to pay the bill. They wanted my bank account number. Um, no. Not gonna happen. So, I turned off the computer with an increasingly nauseous feeling in my stomach. Yep, I was gonna pay interest. Me, who rails against credit card debt. Me, who writes to encourage good stewardship. I felt like a total sap.

That’s why at 8:05 a.m. this morning, if you happened to be sitting in the parking lot of my local department store, you saw a wild-eyed blond screeching into the parking lot, hustling out of her SUV and half carrying/half dragging her poor, dazed, four-year-old straight to the credit counter. There, I paid the bill in full and inquired carefully how much the interest charge was going to be.

“I’m not sure,” the very helpful lady told me. “But you will have a $25 late fee automatically.”

I’m sure the blood must have quite literally drained from my face because she gave me a concerned look. Yeah, there goes my savings from using the card at all.

“You know,” she offered sweetly, “you can call the credit department from that phone over there. They can let you know.”

A few short minutes later, I was heaping phone praise on my customer service helper lady for wiping out my $25 and the interest which they had back charged on my entire bill.

Yeesh. Never again, I swore.

It’s getting practically epidemic, though. It seems almost every store I go to wants me to sign up for a credit card and promises me savings if I will. And, I have to say, it worked on me this time. It’s just plain hard to turn down 30 percent off. All I have to do is sign up for your silly credit card? Okay, fine.

We think we’ll pay it on time. Some of us do. But they’re counting on the fact that we won’t. After all, why would they offer us such an incentive if they didn’t plan on making even more money off of us than we are saving off of them? According to an article over at Dave Ramsey’s web site, 60 percent of us don’t pay off our credit cards each month. Another article I read stated that a major chain store just made more than 15 percent of its annual profit off its credit cards alone.

And here’s something else: Even when we pay off our credit cards each month, two separate studies have shown that we actually spend more using credit than cash. One of the studies showed that we spend 12-18 percent more on a purchase with credit than with cash. Another (cited by Randy Alcorn in his book Money, Possessions and Eternity) “calculated that a consumer using a credit card will buy 26 percent more than he would if he were carrying cash, even if he pays it all off without interest charges.”

So, I’m saving 30 percent to spend 26 percent more? And then they’re counting on the fact that I’ll have returns or the first day of school or deadlines or life, and that they’ll be getting some interest and late fees too?

Tricky. Suddenly, my “savings” aren’t looking so smart.


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About the Author

Heather Koerner

Heather Koerner is a stay-at-home mom and freelance writer from Owasso, Okla.

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