When I graduated high school, I got a job and got an apartment and bought a piece of crap car. I also applied for a credit card, because I assumed that was just what you did when you were setting up shop as a Person.
They turned me down.
My 18-year-old feelings were kind of hurt but I figured, that's okay, I haven't been at my job long. I waited a few months and applied to a different company.
They turned me down.
I found this a little infuriating. I was an upstanding citizen, I paid my bills, what the hell was the problem? The credit card companies would never give me an actual reason so I asked a friend that worked at a bank.
Basically? They wouldn't give me one because I didn't already HAVE one, and because I was perfectly capable of paying it off. I swore a lot and stuck a few pins in voodoo dolls marked "Visa" and then forgot about it.
The next year, I went away to college. Credit card applications are rampant on campus; there are even people whose job it is to wave them in your face. To test a theory, one day I filled out the form and mailed it away.
What a shocker - though I had no discernible form of income whatsoever, not even student loans, they gave me the fucking credit card. Knowing that their insidious plan was to let me rack it up and then barely make the minimum payment, and that I would probably do just that, I froze it in a block of ice and stuffed it into the freezer.
It stayed there until I had almost graduated, at which point my stupid cat got hit by a car. To pay the vet for her treatment, I needed to use the credit card.
(The stupid cat survived, by the way, and lived for many more long and vindictive days.)
After that I graduated and went to summer school in Banff, where I had even LESS money, and MasterCard commenced sending me rather angry letters. At the end of the summer, I came home, got a job, and went into the bank as soon as I could to pay them.
"We're, uh...we're going to have to keep the card," the teller told me, and cut it up right then and there. Though the last thing I wanted was to be given the card back, I felt about 2 inches tall, and a shamefaced 18 years old all over again. Even though it had been my own mocking experiment, because I thought getting a credit card and then not using it was the ultimate way to show them I was on to their game. Or something.
Fast forward to NOW, many years later. I haven't had a credit card since then - in fact, I wave away those obnoxious people in the supermarket with a "I don't believe in credit cards, thanks," - but I have had car loans, student loans, and lines of credit. And I've paid them all off, with a few close calls but never in arrears, always a loanee in good standing. Last year, we remortgaged the house and paid it ALL off.
I wish someone had told me that a mortgage doesn't count for your credit rating.
Because I've recently noticed that despite the fact I wrote maybe three checks total between the ages of 16 and 30, now that I have a house and a kid, I write them all the damn time. And nobody ever cashes them immediately. Also, I pay for a lot of things online, which could take anywhere from 3 to 15 days to go through. I don't keep track of this shit; I'm a busy woman, and the last time I balanced my checkbook I was twelve years old.
Which means that maybe, OCCASIONALLY, lately I've been overdrawn by like twenty bucks. Simple enough - I went to the bank and asked for an overdraft protection on my checking account. They said, sure! We'll just...oh...wait. You don't have any revolving credit, you've been silly and living within your means, so your credit rating is precisely ZERO. You need to see a lender.
Ugh. Fine. I'll go see a lender. For a $500 overdraft on my fucking checking account.
So I made an appointment to see a lender, at the bank I've been banking at for 20 years. My old loans officer has since retired, so I got a new one. She greeted me cheerily, introduced her 20-year-old trainee, and shook my hand with both of her hands.
For some reason, that irritated the shit out of me.
Then she proceeded to talk and talk and talk, and peppered her speech with comments about how obviously I was a valued customer since I'd been banking there so long, and all my previous loans had been paid off in good standing, and would I like an explanation of the simplest banking procedures? And I couldn't figure out who she was condescending to, me or the trainee. I figured out that it was ME right around the time she actually started crunching numbers and said,
"Oh! Well, your serviceable debt is about 41% of your income. We need to see that under 40%. In order to get this loan approved, you'll need to add your fiance's financial information to this profile."
And just like that, I was 18 years old again. Financially infantilized, in one fell swoop. Sure, we can give you $500, sweetie, but you need to get Daddy to sign here in case you fuck it up, okay? There's that ONE PERCENT, dontcha know.
I gritted my teeth and smiled and thanked her, and she mentioned my upstanding record with the bank one more time and shook my hand with both her hands (Hey! Figured out why it bothered the shit out of me - more false deference! Also, it makes it harder for me to punch her in the throat).
It's enough to make a person go out and rashly apply for a credit card.
At least they're a little more upfront about fiscally eviscerating you.