GROWTH IN CREDIT CARD DEBT

1997 $505 billion
1996 $473 billion
1995 $420 billion
1994 $347 billion
1993 $273 billion
1992 $245 billion
1991 $232 billion
1990 $212 billion

Estimates based on total revolving credit debt.

PROFITS AT THE GROCERY STORE

Mark Langenderfer
Chicago, IL
Age: 32
Occupation: Plant Manager
Credit Cards: 3

“I got my first credit card in college and have never, not even once, paid any interest or finance charges on any of them.” His Private Issue Discover card offers a nearly 2% cash rebate; his Driver’s Edge VISA rebates 2% toward any new car purchase. So Mark has found something better than bank ATMs. “Chicago area grocery stores will give you up to $50 in cash with any purchase. For example, you can buy a pack of gum for $1, charge $51 to your card, and get $50 cash. This is the same as withdrawing $50 cash from your ATM, but you get the cash a month in advance. Plus, with the 2% rebate, I get a dollar added to my rebate check every time I do this.” So the gum is free.

THE WARRANTY WORKED!

Lynwood Brawn
Edinboro, PA
Occupation: Computer Consultant
Credit Cards: 9

“I used a GE gold MasterCard to buy a Gateway 2000 Telepath modem for $195 plus $10 shipping. The modem died on October 10, 1994, with less than a month to go on the gold card’s ‘warranty extension’ (it doubled the manufacturer’s warranty). I called to report it, expecting a hassle. No hassle. The card company sent me some forms, I filled them out, and the check came within a week.”

(I’m still gasping in surprise at this one.)

FLIES FIRST CLASS

Eli Broad
Los Angeles, CA
Age: 52
Occupation: Mogul

SunAmerica Chairman Eli Broad bought a painting a couple of years ago for $2.4 million — with his American Express card, to get the frequent flier miles. (Is it possible you have an American Express card and haven’t signed up for the Membership Rewards program? Gadzooks! You are throwing money out the window! Call at once — 800-297-3276. You can also use that number to see how many miles you’ve accumulated and check to be sure they have your correct frequent-flier numbers.)

NO BLACK-OUT PERIODS

Gary Saxer
Agoura Hills, CA
Age: 44
Occupation: Designs Trade Show Presentations

“I think credit cards are great! I use them for almost every purchase I make — I can go for weeks on $200 in my wallet and not use it up. I now have a Travelers Bank card with TravelerMiles [800-932-8472] that offers me $100 in airline fare for every $6,000 I spend. I can use up to $400 in these credits toward ANY ticket on ANY airline, as long as I book through their agent (which has been as good as any I’ve used). And I get 5% of my travel purchases BACK if I send in the receipts after the trip. This service costs $39 a year. I pay my bill in full every month and get a record of my purchases that comes in handy at tax time and when I need to find out when I bought something for warranty repair.”

Tomorrow: Anything But Credit Cards — I Promise

 

 

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