When I first came to the States more than a decade ago, it took me a few months to understand the concept of debit vs. credit cards. It was so confusing at the start because why would they credit me when I am borrowing money, or use my card to debit me when I have cash in the bank? But later, I figured out, cards are more about the bank and less about the consumers.
I did not want to get a credit card until my friend Adnan, who is an educator, told me you need these things to build a financial report in this country to show that you are financially responsible. If borrowing money is the only way to show that you are responsible financially, then all my broke cousins would be kings in this country. I could never get a credit card at home because for starters, few vendors (if any) accept them. And there is also the part where I do not talk like a city boy and that disqualifies me from rolling with that suit wearing crowd resented by pious people. My college bank gave me a credit card with a 500 dollar credit limit, then a year later it became 700 dollars and it went bigger and bigger. Wells Fargo also offered me one, and it seemed that everyone wanted to give me money and a free t-shirt, too.
Plus, as someone who came from a war zone that has virtually no mail or postage system, getting stuff in the mail was an out of this world experience. I loved getting stuff in the mail, even junk mail was exciting at the beginning. Until a few years ago, when Capital One offered me a credit card that would earn me airline mileage every time I use it. Nevermind that I am a Palestinian and few countries would want me to travel to them anyway. And there is that thing about flying as a tall and dark man in today’s security-obsessed world. I applied for the card and got it.....but the miles never started coming as fast as I had hoped they would come.
Unlike many, I have not lost a home in my dealings with the bank. I just feel that I was cheated. Recently, I got a new Mastercard from Capital One that I do not recall ever applying for. Up to that point, I only had Visa cards, and it was exciting to add one to my collection of credit cards where my name is inscripted. I started using the card as needed, but then I learned the card does not actually earn any miles yet it charges the same interest rate as the one that earns miles. Since both cards are linked online to the mile/award system that they both earn miles. But why would someone with a head on his shoulders use a card that gives them nothing back? My Discover card is pretty good about giving cash back, even the Capital One Visa credit card that I initially had was giving something back.
When I called, the first line of defense for the bank could not figure out why they would send me a card I never applied for. Then comes the second line of defense, with the name of Chris and radio worthy voice. He did not figure out why I would get the card, but he offered to upgrade my account so that I could start getting air miles. It took them two years to figure out that people prefer getting something back. Chris said he was really sorry about the confusion and the miscommunication. I was really frustrated because I would chose to use Mastercard over all other cards, assuming my miles were adding up and my next trip seemed so soon (I really do not like to fly, something tells me I am not the only one). When I asked Chris to close my account, he understood why as a follow consumer. He tried to talk to the managers, but they came back with nothing. Ultimately, I spoke to the big cheese, a lady with the name Marty (or something really close). She is the senior manager. She could not figure out why I would get that card either and suggested giving me an address where I can mail them a letter. C’mon, lady, a mailing address, what am I, do I sound like I am 80 years old?
Right before I ended the call, I asked her, consumer to consumer, do you see my frustration? Why would I use your card that does not give anything back over your other card that comes with perks? She validated those remarks. Even mighty Marty was no help, though.
My negligence and faith in the credit card issuer combined with the bank’s greed ( some may call it incompetence) managed to leave a bad taste in my mouth. Even for someone like me who came with the understanding that a bank is a place where you put your money to keep it safe, who has no need for credit cards, have been sucked into this system. A system that if you want to leave, you are told your credit rating will take a hit. No wonder some of those banks thinking they are too big to fail really believe that. I do not hate all banks, I love my college bank in Utah where I still have an account. I am all for the creation of wealth and prosperity.
I did not realize the twisted logic of credit cards I started to explain the concept of credit cards to my wife. It really sounded ridiculous, so together we’ve agreed not to go down the rabbit hole. I like one particular quote from Gordon B. Hinckley on this matter “Pay off debt as quickly as you can, and free yourselves from bondage.” as told by
I am sure some fat bank executive is sipping a tropical drink on a beach somewhere in Barbados courtesy of poor people like myself. I am sure he did not have to worry about mileage, I only hope the good people at the TSA gave him a very close encounter.