herald

Saturday 21 September 2019

The scary reality of credit card companies raising those limits

Marisa Mackle

'Never get a credit card,' my dad once said to me. I sure wish I'd taken his advice. When I got my first job, my bank advised me to get a credit card. So I took their advice and not dad's.

"I won't go mad," I promised. Him and myself. "I'm not going to go out shopping for things I can't afford. But the credit card will come in handy for booking flights and stuff."

My limit was 500 pounds. That was grand, I thought. I'd never go too crazy if all I could spend was 500 pounds.

"Just make sure you pay it all off every month," said mum.

I began to feel sorry that I'd told my parents I was getting a credit card at all. I was a grown-up now and everybody had a credit card for goodness' sake. And I did pay back whatever I owed every month.

Then, without me even asking, the credit card company raised my limit to 750 pounds. This came in very useful, especially when booking a last-minute flight to Australia.

I paid this off in full when the next statement came in. I was never in the red.

They raised my limit to a thousand pounds, and then 1,500 pounds. I didn't object. The card came in handy when I bought my first second-hand car.

They raised it to 2,000 and then 3,000 pounds. It came in useful when I bought my first high end sofa. They raised it to 4,000 and then 5,000 pounds.

Imagine! They trusted me. They were so nice! Then they raised it every year until my limit was 10,000 pounds. And then one day I found myself in debt. Yes, debt.

I no longer had a job. But I owed 10,000 pounds. I don't know how it happened. How did someone sensible like me end up owing money? I hadn't even much to show for it! Then the credit card people weren't so nice anymore. The opposite, in fact.

fear

I began to live in fear of the postman. The letters came in thick and fast, hitting the floor with a thump I could simultaneously feel in my heart. I began not answering my phone.

I cut the credit card in two. I refused to go shopping. Any invitations to shopping events went straight in the bin. I wouldn't even allow myself to gaze at the shop windows.

For entertainment I bought books from charity shops. I cancelled my gym membership and started walking. I scrimped and saved until every last penny was paid off. It took about four months.

Then I got a new credit card. The limit was 2000 euro. It still is. They are not allowed raise this. I never want to owe anything again. It's a horrible feeling. I can't believe how much I was harassed over 10k.

This was in the early noughties when banks were flinging money at people. During the week as I was driving my car, listening to Joe Duffy, I felt sad listening to people who had got into debt. Some people had lost their homes.

It's scary when you find yourself becoming like your parents. But if my son wanted a credit card at 18, I'd say, "please don't".

Promoted articles

Entertainment News