It’s fun to use a credit card because you get your dinner or haircut or iPod now, but your bill doesn’t come until later. Credit cards are accepted almost everywhere. You can put most of your monthly expenses like utility bills on them and even make arrangements to be billed automatically. But the best part is that you can even choose not to pay your bill in full! Sure, it costs something to carry a balance on your credit card, but it’s so much less fun to pay bills than it is to buy things.
The best way to maximize your ratio of fun to not-fun is therefore to pay the minimum on your credit card every month. Eventually, though, you hit your credit limit and the fun threatens to stop. At that point, there are a few options. One option is just to keep using another credit card, but let’s assume that’s not possible. The next option is to pay down some of the balance (or go back to making purchases in cash), but that isn’t fun, because we’ve already established that it isn’t fun to pay bills. Another option is not to pay the bill at all, but that would be even less fun – not only would you be cut off anyway from buying more things, you’d also start getting visits at home from guys with thick necks and questionable taste in jewelry…
But my Readers are clever enough to have spotted the most fun option: request a credit limit increase!
The credit card company might balk a little bit at how much debt you have already accumulated, not to mention your other debt (like your huge mortgage!). But, frankly, your payment history is pristine, and the credit card company likes to earn its little bit of interest and transaction fees every time you make a charge. After all, the credit card company needs to put its money to work somewhere. Some shareholders have trouble understanding why the company keeps lending to customers like you. They wonder, shouldn’t the company be supporting some local small businesses instead? The company’s decision definitely would be likely to weigh on its stock price. Fortunately, though, you happen to know that the company actually thinks it’s a competitive advantage to have a cheap stock price. So the company hasn’t given you any indication that they’re going to deny a request from you anytime soon.
As long as the credit card company keeps increasing your credit limit, you can have basically as much fun as you want. That is, unless some JERK comes along and hides your cell phone and locks you in your apartment to try to prevent you from actually calling the credit card company to request that increase. Not fun!
That jerk would probably think he’s being pretty clever, since you’d have to finally start paying more of your bills every month in order not to run out of cash. That would totally not be fun for you, but the worst part would be watching his smug reaction as you scrambled to keep the electricity on, while trying not to disappoint your hairstylist and the others who have enjoyed the benefit of your spending. You just know he’s going to call up your hairstylist at the end of the month and have a good chat with her about how disappointed in you they both are.
But, wait a minute. If my Readers were in this position, they would have spotted something fishy about the whole scenario long ago. How on Earth did that jerk know where you live, never mind where you keep your phone?
The most likely explanation is that he’s your embittered ex who is, for some reason, still a co-signer on the credit card.
It’s not like that jerk hasn’t also been having a grand old time running up the charges every month! In fact, half the charges that you have to pay for every month are for things like his multiple gym memberships and church dues and all those other bills that he put on auto-pay years and years ago. Sure, it’s not fun for YOU to be paying HIS bills, but you’d always had a kind of understanding that everyone would have more fun if the credit limit just kept on being increased whenever necessary. Who does he think he is, trying to stop your fun unilaterally?
Nevertheless, suppose you found yourself locked in the apartment just as the monthly bill was coming due. You and the jerk could have a good shouting match; but although that might be fun for you, the neighbors would probably be scandalized by the whole tacky spectacle. (You probably will do it anyway, though.) You are NOT going to give him the satisfaction of begging for the phone back; that’s even less fun than not being able to buy things anymore.
So, you have two options. The first option is to climb out the fire escape and call your buddy Ben, who seems to be able to create cash out of thin air. (You’re always surprised that he doesn’t seem to be having any fun, with that kind of magical power.) He’s a bit of an eccentric fellow with an artistic bent, so you know you can count on him to buy whatever doodle you put on paper for him. You can then run that cash over to the credit card company in the nick of time. It’s not fun to pay a bill, but it is fun to make doodles; so it’s sort of a wash. And then you get to give a big raspberry to the jerk until the next time either of you needs to use the credit card.
The other option is to hold your breath until the jerk gives you the phone or you pass out. You may risk some permanent brain damage that way… but, hey, some people get off on that sort of thing.
Addendum: Karl Smith has something serious to say about this metaphor. For what it’s worth, I agree with his conclusion.