Fine print, Living with credit

Babies, puppies and ice: The best of Yahoo!

Oh, credit cards — they inspire many a woe and even more questions. Here are some of my favorite bizarre credit queries that were posted on Yahoo! Answers along with my answers to their problems.

Jeffy asks “New baby is on the way, any way to get credit card to improve his/her credit?”

A: And just to think — it used to be that signing up an unborn for the best prep school was the trendy thing to do.  Arming junior with a credit card prenatally isn’t necessarily the best way to improve your child’s credit — I’d start with personal finance picture books or a piggy bank. While there is no minimum age requirement to add your child as an authorized user to your credit accounts, the ultimate decision to allow a child to piggyback is up to the lender. Even if lenders do allow a child to access a parent’s account, they may not actually be building a credit history.

An authorized user has permission to use someone else’s credit card account, but is not responsible for paying the bill. Sometimes the authorized user can improve or build a credit history by being listed on the account.

Mastering credit is important, but starting too early can be risky. Opening a line of credit in your child’s name leaves them vulnerable to becoming victims of identity theft or fraud, according to Rod Griffin, the director of public education at Experian. Parents don’t need to worry about building a child’s history until he or she is entering high school.

“If you have a high school junior or senior, at that point add them as an authorized user and use it as a teaching tool,” Griffin said.
SupraRacer asks “If I ran up my credit card to the maximum and then killed myself what would happen to my debt?”

A: If you are despondent over credit card debt, seek guidance from a credit counselor.

There are other ways of escaping debt without sacrificing life. That said, this question seems to be posited for the sole purpose of exploring a possible life choice, which makes me think this query comes courtesy of a bored 16-year-old boy.  So kid, once you’re old enough to have a card, here’s what goes down. Creditors would attempt to recover the money you spent by collecting anything and everything of value from your estate. If you own property: a car, a house, jewelry, a bike … video gaming systems … they might seize these things, which prevents these assets from going to your family.

If you’d like to spend the last days of your life living in luxury, why not go rob a shopping mall? You’ll get to enjoy your stolen swag for a few days while still affording your family the opportunity to claim what was originally yours upon your untimely death. I’m kidding. Please don’t do this; it is stupid.

QuiteContrary asks “My dog is getting credit card offers in the mail! What can I do to stop it?”

A: The Federal Trade Commission offers a way to opt-out of having pre-approved credit card offers sent to you. Call (888) 5-OPTOUT (567-8688) or visit . This is useful for anyone receiving unwanted credit propositions in the mail. You will be asked to enter in a Social Security number and other personal information. Since this question is regarding a dog, things may get a bit hairy. Does this dog have a random SSN assigned to him? Is it yours? Was he given a last name?
If you don’t have enough information to opt-out, try calling the companies sending you the offers. Tell them to stop and to remove your dog’s name from their database.

Also, check your credit report to ensure your dog (or someone else) hasn’t been buying extra treats.

Godlivesme asks “Is it safe to put your credit card in water and freeze it?”

  Freezing your credit card in water should be safe. Water isn’t one of the mortal enemies of credit cards — old age and magnets are. In fact, freezing your credit card in a block of ice is a resort used by those with shopping addictions because it’s safer than excessive shopping (hence the phrase: “put your card on ice.”) However, if you want to be extra careful, put the credit card in a small sandwich bag before placing it in water. This will keep your card from coming into direct contact with water.

If your card does emerge defunct, call your credit card company to get a new one.  Even in an emergency situation, a working card isn’t necessary. The cashier can enter your credit card information manually.
Hannah asks “I need to be the ‘soul of a credit card’ in my drama play, what should I wear? PLEASE HELP?

A: I’m pretty sure most frustrated card users would tell you fulfilling this goal is impossible as credit cards are soulless. I say you dress up similar to a zombie bride to look evil, yet at the same time, strangely appealing. My editor suggested dressing up as a splurge purchase. Other Yahoo! Answer participants came up with the following:

Jenni says “Wear red. Something flowing, drippy almost that you can possibly unfurl. A hood or mask of some sort would be great, too. Something that shows you’re anonymous, untouchable.”

Rhapword says “Wear a T-shirt and depending on how many levels of danger you want to portray, layer the T-shirt with crepe paper / glazed paper of different colors. Thus, at the start of the play you can display a white front, signifying a clean slate. Below that will be a sheet of gray, then pale yellow, ending with a blood-red sheet to signify the end.”

Xboxguy15 asks “Does the magnetic strip on credit cards stand up to dog bites?

My puppy has a thing for leather wallets. He constantly will do anything to chew on leather and has eaten up three of my wallets. Usually we catch him quickly, but today, he got at my credit cards, and two of them he bit softly into the magnetic strips on the back, not breaking through the plastic but bending them up. Will these still work?”

A: The magnetic stripe on your card consists of three tracks, all composed of tiny magnets.  The third track isn’t always used, so depending where the puppy gnawed could affect whether your card is usable or not.

But here’s an idea that will solve all of your problems. Why don’t you go to the nearest department store to test the card’s functionality? Pick out a nice leather-free wallet and then try to check out. If the cashier swipes and nothing happens, you’ve got your answer. Call the credit card company and it will mail you a new card. In the meantime, you may still use the card by telling the cashier to enter the numbers manually into the system. Either way, buy a new leather-free wallet — preferably one without a picture of a cat on it.

Star  L asks “Does it look bad (to the cashier) if you buy alcohol using a credit card?”

Unless you try purchasing the booze with an Alcoholics Anonymous-branded credit card, which, as far as I know, don’t exist, I can’t think of a situation when a cashier would look down on you for simply using a credit card instead of a debit card or cash to buy alcohol.

If you’ve received a snide look or two from the checkout guy, consider the following: Are you alone and buying large quantities of alcohol or are you purchasing really cheap booze that is associated with being a tasteless college student? Either of these may cause the clerk’s respect for you to waver — but who cares? You can drown your sorrows away until your credit card bill comes.

Consider this though: The cashier is the least of your worries. It’s whether you look good or bad to the credit card issuer that’s important, and YES, they notice what you buy.

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  • Lonely Son

    Situation, then two questions:
    One of my parents died recently and one of her credit cards — $11,000 balance — was recently closed. Although the card was under her name only, our entire family was using it and would like to keep it and the available credit that remains on it. Would the credit card company allow us to keep the card/balance/available credit? And what is your best advice for credit card debt of parents and surviving adult children.