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5 credit lessons from a grown-up Harry Potter

Dawn Papandrea

With the new two-part play “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” now onstage in London’s West End and the book version of the published script on store shelves, the world is once again abuzz about the adventures of the boy wizard turned father figure.

The “Cursed Child” story picks up at the epilogue of “Deathly Hallows,” with Harry married to Ginny Weasley. They have three boys, and the youngest, Albus, is getting ready to leave for Hogwarts.

Also sending off their kids to the wizarding school are Ron and Hermione (who are married) and Draco Malfoy, Harry’s archnemesis growing up. In what’s being billed as the eighth book in the HP series, Albus and Malfoy’s son, Scorpius, become fast friends.

Fans are anxious to see how Harry’s experiences and a unique family history will shape young Albus’ journey. But what can Harry’s legacy teach us Muggles about credit responsibility? Here are 5 Potter-inspired personal finance pointers:

1. Find the right credit house for you. While there’s no Sorting Hat to help you choose the right type of credit card for your needs, there are lots of online tools (including CardMatch and WalletUp) to help. Before you go new-card shopping, take an honest look at yourself and your spending style. Just as Harry sensed that he was destined to be in Gryffindor, you can decide if you’re best suited for a cash back card, rewards card or low-interest card. If there was a financial version of The Mirror of Erised (the ancient mirror that shows Harry his true desires), what would yours reveal?

2. The past will follow you, but it doesn’t have to define you. Harry’s infamy preceded him when he arrived at Hogwarts, but over the years, he defied expectations and ultimately saved the school — and the wizardry world. Fans can only help but wonder if Harry’s son will follow a similar path. Although your perspective on financial matters might have been influenced by your parents and your upbringing, everyone has the power to shape his or her own credit destiny. Your credit score has nothing to do with how much money you earn. It’s based on your payment history and how you use the credit available to you. As for past credit mistakes? You can overcome those as well. It just takes time and persistence.

3. Wield your powers responsibly. As Dumbledore said in “Harry Potter and The Chamber of Secrets,” “It is our choices, Harry, that show us what we truly are, far more than our abilities.” Beginning with your first credit card, pay your bill in full and on time each month. Be careful about opening too many accounts at once, especially store cards with high interest rates. It’s just about making good choices — no magic spells required!

4. Safeguard your finances. Gringott’s Wizarding Bank is said to be “the safest place in the world,” which is why Harry and all the wizards keep their precious items there. Because there aren’t any goblins to guard over your financial accounts, you should be proactive about protecting your identity and your credit cards from fraudulent activity. Set up alerts to notify you when there is suspicious activity on your accounts, and look over your statements frequently. Also, pull your free credit report from all three bureaus (Experian, Equifax and TransUnion) once per year via annualcreditreport.com and check them for errors.

5. Don’t take money for granted. The Weasleys, who have seven children, are depicted throughout the novels as living frugally, buying second-hand items, and passing down clothing to the siblings. The lesson here? Don’t spend beyond your means, and make do with what you have. Going into debt trying to keep up with the Hogwarts’ elite will only complicate your life, and in the end, having loads of material things won’t make you happy — just ask the Malfoys!

Any other financial/credit lessons to be gleaned from the grown-up Harry Potter? Drop me a line at dawnpapandrea@gmail.com or tweet to me @DawnPapandrea.

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