Living with credit

My credit card life in 4 squiggly lines

Tyler Metzger

Musical equipment, plane and concert tickets, Mexican food, furniture, magazine subscriptions, coffee, shoes, clothes, beer, car insurance, painting supplies, barbecue, video rentals and lots of gas.

I’ve had a credit card in my name for more than year, and judging by the list above, I’ve put some pretty stupid things on it. I’ve charged more than $50 in ’80s horror rentals, more than $100 in shoes (they clean though) and countless amounts of breakfast tacos and Mexican beer.

I don’t have a lot of regrets, though. I stand by the $550 in recording gear I put on my card, as I am now a critically acclaimed producer. Well, at least I hope to be one soon. The $40 I charged to see drum and bass artist Dieselboy play in the same venue as Norwegian black metal band Mayhem was a solid choice. And the plane tickets to Missouri to spend time with the fam were, of course, a must.

So in an effort to look my credit card debt directly in the face, I sifted through all my old bills and gathered some info. Check out the chart below to see how I’ve used my card since I first got it in September 2008.


As you can see, I’m still working with about $600 in debt, but it’s been declining since it peaked at $957 in July 2009. But hey, that amount is nothing compared to the more than $4,100 that the average senior has after college, according to a 2009 study by Sallie Mae. Plus, I only have one card to deal with, and according to the same study, the average college student has more than four cards. Being average is never a good thing.

I’ve been reducing my debt by leaving the card at home. I mean, I never really need my credit card, it just happens to be in my wallet next to my debit card, which deducts “real money” from my account. So I never miss it when I hide it in my clothes hamper.

Also, the main reason I got a credit card was to help me get on my feet after I graduated and moved to Austin in August 2008. Now that I’m ballin’ out of control, I have less need for a plastic IV line. Plus my credit limit is only $1,000; this has kept me from buying any high-end junk or airline tickets to South America.

My low, well, mega low annual percentage rate has been helpful, too. My current APR is 6.24 percent, and as of Nov. 5, 2009, the national average APR was 12.64 percent. That’s less than half, son! I’ve been able to incur only small monthly charges with this rate, which has kept my balance reasonably low.

I suspect I got this baller rate thanks to my stunningly good looks and musical talent, but my boss(es) tell me it might have something to do with a good credit score and credit report. Luckily, I checked on that last October, and discovered I had a credit score of 769, which is “Great,” according to the credit bureau Equifax. The reason my score was “great” was because I had no missed payments, I had a low credit utilization ratio and I have an established credit history of revolving and nonrevolving accounts.

But how did I have credit history if I’ve only had one credit card for a little over a year? Piggybacking. My parents added me as an authorized user on their credit cards when I was just entering high school, and that decision has built “my” credit score for more than nine years.

Some organizations, such as FICO, the guys who created the almighty credit score by the same name, have tried to halt this practice. They said too many people were  using it, making the playing field uneven for folk who didn’t or couldn’t jump on their parents’ backs.

Fortunately, FICO granted piggybacking a reprieve, taking pity on kinfolks and my 769 score.

Without piggybacking, I might have been stuck with a high interest rate and a tiny credit limit on my card. Or even worse, maybe I wouldn’t have been able to even get a card. That happened recently to a friend with whom I graduated. She needed a credit card to get a new computer, but she was denied due to no credit history. I imagine, too, she was denied because lenders continue to tighten credit standards.

But for now, I’m happy with my little credit card life. I have a tiny APR, a great credit history and score and I’m on my way to zeroing out my debt. If only everyone could have it this easy.

See related: Young man seeking good score, Study: Undergrads relying on credit at record levels, 6 tips for college students considering 1st credit card, ‘Piggybacking’ your way out of bad credit, Fed report: Credit card issuers toughen standards

P.S. Charting my credit card activity was a real eye-opener for me. I’d suggest that everyone with a card do so. There are a lot of programs out there you can use, from ye olde Excel to Adobe Flash. Drop me a line if you’d like some help!

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