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Getting out of Debt

Sentimental Credit: The Emotion Behind the First Card

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Your first credit card is a lot like your first kiss.

Everyone tells you how cool it is. You think you know what you’re doing—after all, you’ve seen people kiss on TV—but you really have no idea. Before you know it, it’s all awkward and messy and she’s mad because you haven’t returned her calls.

Well, regardless of how good or bad your first kiss experience was, you probably remember everything about it. And, oddly enough, that’s a lot like your first credit card.

You had no idea how to use it, but everyone said you needed one. So when you saw the credit card stalkers on campus offering a free T-shirt, you signed up. What’s the harm, right?

Your first charge was a $4 milkshake, and your second was a $12 REO Speedwagon concert poster. You even used it on your third date with that weird guy, Brad, who claimed he “forgot” his wallet right when the check arrived. Oh, the memories.

But then all the annoying calls and junk mail started. You paid it off every month at first, but then you missed a payment and the interest rate skyrocketed to 567%.

You graduated, got a job, and started your new career. Along the way, you got a few more credit cards. They were nice. You even charged your honeymoon and three-fourths of your wedding dress on one of them.

But oh, that first credit card. Just looking at it—the bold print that says “Member since 1992”—doesn’t that just make you feel so important, like you’re a part of a cool club with a secret handshake and matching sport coats? Doesn’t it bring back such warm, fuzzy feelings of nostalgia?

That’s the case for a lot of people. Credit card companies have done such a good job of getting into our heads that giving up the first credit card is like Linus giving up his blanket. But why?

One of Dave’s Facebook fans, Julie, explains her first card this way. “I remember it like it was yesterday, even though it was 25 years ago. Associated Credit had a table at our college on the lawn. If you signed up, you got a free black Frisbee with the colorful Associated logo,” she said.

“It was such a nice day out, and we thought it would be fun to all get Frisbees. I got a $500 limit and maxed it out within the first week at the mall, buying cute outfits,” Julie said. “I made the minimum payments, and they increased my limit several times. The interest rate was so high.”

Julie said she didn’t pay any attention to things like the interest rate, though. “I was just super excited to have ‘money’ to spend.”

She kept that card for a long time. “I kept paying the minimum, and they kept giving me credit limit increases. I was so thankful to them for giving me that first credit card. I was so stupid. That Frisbee cost me a fortune!”

Credit card companies are brilliant marketers. They know if they can lock you in early, like they did with Julie, they have a great chance to keep you around and charge you ridiculous interest rates for decades to come.

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The Nellie Mae Educational Foundation says that 42% of college freshmen have a credit card and 91% of students in their final year own a card. No doubt that credit card companies are striking early.

They’ve been doing that for years. Even recent legislation that curbed some of their unethical practices hasn’t kept them from finding new ways to get 18-year-olds on board.

So don’t even mess with them and play their game. Don’t even go on that “first date.” If that was a long time ago, there’s no reason to be sentimental about your first credit card. We can promise you that they’re not sentimental about you. You’re nothing but a number to them.

Pull out the scissors and cut up that card today. Burn it. Slice it. Run over it. Do whatever you can, but just leave that sentimentality in the past where it belongs.

Have some fun with it! Use this letter written by Jon Acuff to officially break up with your credit cards.

Tell us when and why you got your first credit card. Are you still attached to it?

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