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The Nothing Card lets you buy nothing, pay nothing

Jeremy Simon

nothing-card.jpgIf you’ve tried everything to get your debt under control, it may be time to consider Nothing.

The “nothing” in question is the Nothing Card. It’s a rectangular piece of plastic with the cardholder’s name and a unique 12-digit number embossed on front — so it certainly looks like a credit card. But upon closer inspection, there are clues that something makes Nothing quite different from your usual plastic.

It’s a credit card the Mad Hatter — or a nihilist or Jerry Seinfeld — would love.

Instead of an expiration date, the Nothing Card says it’s valid forever. Instead of a booklet full of terms and conditions that require a Ph.D. to understand, the Nothing Card comes attached to a single sheet of paper that lays out the card’s various benefits:

Of course, you can’t actually make any charges with the Nothing Card — and that’s the point. Carrying the Nothing Card means you will pay for everything in cash and upfront.

That anti-credit concept is hardly new. In fact, the creator of the Nothing Card says the product made its first appearance about 30 years ago. At the time, former advertising copywriter Gibson Carothers says the card was mailed to some prominent politicians and members of the media.

Recently, the Nothing Card returned. Two years ago in California, Carothers says he watched a man put $100 worth of gas into his SUV. That prompted Carothers to consider how things would be different if the driver had to pay cash. In September 2009, the Nothing Card Web site was launched, offering everyone the chance to have Nothing of their own. “The Internet makes it practical in terms of availability,” Carothers says.

As a cardholder myself, I briefly considered what would happen if I tried to make a purchase with my brand new Nothing Card (cost: $6.95), but was wisely discouraged from performing an actual test run. After all, it may have a lot of benefits, but you can’t bail yourself out of jail with Nothing in your pocket.

See related: Bail yourself out of jail — with a credit card

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  • I used to have one of these, back when they first came out. I may still have it in storage. Unfortunately, it appears that the site is no longer active.