This weeks personal finance brain trust question was:
Is having and using a credit card a right or a privilege?
WC – A 27-year-old writer living in Chicago and writing about personal finance through The Writer’s Coin.
This one’s easy: this is a service. So if I had to pick I would say it’s a privilege.
When I was a kid I couldn’t understand the logic behind credit cards. My dad explained it to me and I was shocked: why would a company front you the money for something you don’t have the cash for? Well, because they’re going to make money off it, that’s why. No one owes you a credit card and you shouldn’t expect that. It is NOT a right.
Antisay – This blog is mainly about finance and self-improvement; I am in a constant race to become a better me and this blog is all about that sort of lifestyle. Visit this site.
In my opinion, owning a credit card is a privilege. By definition, a privilege is, “a right or immunity granted as a peculiar benefit, advantage, or favor.” Credit cards are grated only to those who qualify – in theory, anyway. I remember applying for a Victoria Secret store card when I was 18 and being declined because I had no credit history. Once I had a credit history, I was able to get a card with them, but with very high interest rates because I really hadn’t proved my financial self to the world yet.
Having a credit card is a privilege granted when we show that we can be responsible with money. The fact that the credit card companies have lowered their standards significantly in the last decade or so doesn’t change the fact that it’s a service they provide to those who qualify – not a service that they provide to anyone who wants it.
If you have a credit card, it is still a privilege to use it – not a right. If you go over your limit, it is not your “right” to spend more than you’re allowed, and you will get a penalty as a result. And if the credit card company decides they no longer want to lend to you, they can terminate your line of credit. If you abuse the privilege, it will be taken away or you will suffer the penalties.
As a privilege, it is something that should be treated carefully and respected – just like the privilege of recess in elementary school. If you abused the privilege by punching the kid next to you, it was taken away… and so we learn not to punch other kids. And just the same, we have to learn not to overspend or rely on credit too much – lest we find ourselves with a severe penalty. The card might not be taken away from us (unfortunately), but we’ll suffer all the same with late fees, interest, and hassling calls all the time.
I don’t really know how to conclude this – I’m left with final thoughts somewhat unrelated to the topic. Except to say that I wonder what is going through the minds of people who demand credit cards when they don’t qualify? Do they think that the card is their right? I am happy when people are rejected for cards – because I know that they won’t be able to hurt themselves more by overspending themselves into oblivion and then suffering debt misery for the rest of their lives.
Steve Rhode – A personal finance blogger and founder of the Myvesta Foundation, a global social enterprise that helps people find solutions for money troubles. You can ask Steve your debt related question through GetOutOfDebt.org and he’ll help you for free.
I believe that getting a credit card is a privilege since it is something that you must apply for and be awarded or granted access to by another entity.
I think that, rightly or wrongly, many people treat their credit card as a right.
So if having a credit card is a privilege then how much weight can we place in the screams of consumers that feel abused by creditors when the consumer put themselves in that position to begin with? And if it is a privilege and it is issued to generate revenue then isn’t it the banks ethical responsibility to use that tool to maximize revenue for the bank in any way legally possible, even at the expense of the financial well-being of their customers?
But then again, aren’t consumers eligible for fair treatment and regulatory compliance by banks. If they are, then once you get and use a credit card it comes with some rights.
J. Money – You’ll enjoy the blog Budgets Are Sexy for a look inside the life of one blogger and how money impacts it.
It’s a privilege baby! A privilege 99% of us Americans have, but it sure as hell isn’t a right. If it were EVERYONE would be able to have (and keep) one – and these days that’s simply not the case….plus look around at the rest of the world – not even close to what we have going on here. I have not way of backing this up, of course, but i’m sure it’s true.
So if you’re lucky enough to get your hands on a GOOD credit card (like with low interest rates), then cherish it and use it wisely my friend. If you get caught dicking around, it may haunt you for years to come – and that’s no fun for anyone.
Marcus – The creator of the CreditMattersBlog, this blogger has a deadly sharp point of view when it comes to consumer debt issues. Visit his blog.
If anyone says that it’s a right, I’ll be shocked.
Of course, it’s a privilege. But before you can earn the privilege, you must first be approved for a card. Indeed, we all started out with a clean slate. None of us could prove our creditworthiness from the get go. Therefore, our first card is typically granted without us having to prove a thing.
Beyond our first card, though, it is a privilege to get additional cards. No one is guaranteed the right to get approved for a credit card. Indeed, we must earn that privilege by demonstrating that we can handle additional credit. Still, even if we’ve shown that we’re capable — and responsible — there are no assurances that the card companies will continue to extend credit to us. For whatever reason, a card company could withdraw our credit lines (in the form of credit-limit decreases or closures). If that happens, you’ll then realize that it was always a privilege to have the card in the first place. Fact is, if it was a right, the card companies wouldn’t be allowed to take the credit away.
That’s my two cents on the topic.
Dawn – Iowa Hippie Chick blogs about money love and marriage and offers so very insightful posts on personal finance that involve emotional insight and awareness. Vist her blog.
This question is a no-brainer …
Having a credit card is a privilege!
It is a privilege that we earn by handling our personal finances responsibly.
I suppose, it’s similar to the privilege of driving – If not handled with care it should be taken away. Thus keeping the rest of us safe from irresponsible users!
Patrick Bryan – Living in Northern Ireland, Patrick helps people in a very different environment and economy but yet, much is universal and much is the same. Visit Patrick’s Northern Ireland blog on debt.
Until the constitution is amended to include ‘the right to get into debt’ I feel you would have to describe a credit card as a privilege rather than a right. It is a commercial decision for a credit card company to issue someone with a card – in essence they decide if they are a good risk to repay the money lent, and if there is a profit to be made from the relationship.
For many of us credit cards are a great benefit providing convenience, reduce the risk of carrying cash and provide interest free credit for up to 56 days. Until debit cards came along nothing could beat the benefit of having a credit card in your wallet, and if you use them ‘responsibly’ then I believe that we should still consider it a privilege to own one.
Unfortunately it is when people fall behind with credit cards that the dark side of our flexible friends is revealed. High interest charges, late payment fees, retroactive application of interest charges, two-cycle billing – I could go on. It is for this reason the Credit Cardholders’ Bill of Rights was proposed. The capricious nature of credit cards is that even though they are inanimate pieces of plastic they can assume magical powers, transforming themselves from a helping hand which pulls you out of trouble into a shove in the back when you are teetering on the edge of a financial precipice.
So, rather than defining a credit card as a ‘privilege’ or a ‘right’ I would prefer people to regard them as a form of ‘luxury debit card’ – a way of spending money in a safe and convenient manner, but which has to be paid back when the bill arrives each month. And if you can’t trust yourself to do this on a regular basis then it is probably best if you just use a regular debit card instead, and keep your credit cards at the bottom of your sock drawer, or locked in a high tower and guarded by a dragon.