1. You never carry a balance.
  2. You care more about the bank’s financial success than your own.


V Lakshman
Norman, OK
Age: 26
Occupation: Engineer
Cards: 4

“I came to the United States as a graduate student in 1993. Thanks to a fellowship, I had enough income to qualify for a bank credit card. Having noticed that without a car there was precious little that one could do in Columbus, Ohio, I set upon a single-minded course — to buy a used car. I had no money and didn’t want to pay interest. The solution? I used the rent money to buy a $600 Honda Civic. Then I assembled a support community of 10 other international students. I would give them rides to the grocery store and pay for their purchases with my credit card. They paid me in cash for the groceries. The clincher: I got a 25 day grace period for which there was no finance charge on purchases. I used the first month’s cash to pay the rent; cash from later purchases paid for earlier credit purchases. In a few months, I saved enough money from my fellowship to be all caught up, and never paid a penny in interest.”


Van-Martin Rowe and Barry Storch
Pasadena, CA
Occupation: Antique-store owners
Ages: 49 and 39
Credit Cards: 2

“Barry and I wanted to purchase a new Chevy Suburban in his name. I had a General Motors gold MasterCard where as much as 10% of certain charges could be credited toward the purchase of a new GM product. I told GM we were a same sex couple and asked if Barry could use the credits I accrued. They were very nice and told me that as long as I got a second card issued in his name, on my account, he could.”

That saved them $1,100 on the Suburban. What’s more, they charged the entire purchase to another credit card and got 42,000 frequent flyer miles. Because they pay their balances in full each month, the Suburban came interest-free.

And just how did they manage to persuade the car dealer to put the whole thing on a credit card?

“We checked with the credit card before we went in and they told us that if they accepted credit cards for products at their business they had to take our card for the purchase price. We pointed out to the dealership that since they had accepted our card for a deposit when we placed the order they must take it for the full purchase.”

I think it may have helped that the Suburban they bought was so popular at the time, people were on waiting lists. In other words, the vehicles weren’t being discounted much, if at all, from the full sticker price, so there was probably plenty of margin for the dealer to take a hit on the fee he would have to give up to the credit card company. I remember the one time in the last 25 years I bought a new car (back in 1992, when I felt sorry for Detroit), I tried to put the whole thing on a credit card and — because there was a lot less margin in the deal for the dealer — he wouldn’t let me. We had this crazy backward negotiation over the deposit. He wanted me to seal the deal with a deposit on my credit card. Fine with me, I said — proposing a $20,000 deposit. He kept trying to lower the amount of my deposit, I kept trying to raise it. We settled at a very low number. Maybe I should have tried harder.

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