Past Problems with Credit Cards: A Confession

July 17, 2008

Writer Auditions – Author Henry Brown – Offer Your Feedback

Here’s a little something about me: I was an expert on credit cards before I was an expert on my own credit card situation. A few years ago, I got hired to write a series of articles about credit cards. I was deemed the credit card expert and I wrote anything and everything about credit cards: articles about how to get a low APR on a credit card, the best way to transfer a balance, ways not to be stupid when you use your credit card, etc. Here’s the rub: at this time I was $15,000 in credit card debt on a card with high finance charges and a terrible APR. A sham, I was. My dirty little secret. I was a writer in need of work who’d written about a bevy of other financial products, so I thought I’d try my hand. But I was deemed an expert publicly before I was a good organizer of my credit privately.

That’s my confession. Does this mean you can’t trust a word I say? I don’t think so, because even though my own credit card situation was fairly bleak during that period, I’d like to think that the advice I gave out was pretty thorough and helpful. Especially to myself – because soon after writing a litany of advice to people facing high credit card debt, bad credit, and all of the other credit problems that becoming more and more common, I followed my own advice: transferred the debt to a series of balance transfer cards with long-term low interest (12 months instead of six), as well as a decent APR after the year was over. I also made certain that I never added a dime to the balance transfer cards and just used them for the transfer.

Finally, I knew my window for paying 0% APR was short-term so I wanted to pay well above the minimum during that period. That meant budgeting like a madman, down to every cup of coffee I bought, and put that money towards my credit card debt. Not easy, by any stretch because the end result was inevitably that I was spending more every month on three separate credit card bills, as opposed to one. Good news, though, was that as soon as a transferred a fair portion of my credit card balance from the terrible credit card to the new cards, I was able to negotiate to get better terms on the card. Credit card companies hate if your balance is over 40% of the limit, so I was rewarded for getting the card under $10,000.

All this was necessary because bad credit card debt is a terrible weight to bear. You always feel it there, even if you like to believe that you’ve pushed it out of your mind. It was no easy task, believe me. I mean, if I could afford to easily pay balances on three credit cards at once, I wouldn’t have fallen into the kind of debt I did (new computer, new tires on my car, eating out, no REALLY dumb purchases). But basically I was running in place every month – maybe shaving some money off the balance, but nothing significant. I felt guilty for putting it off for so long but now its taken care of and I can claim to be an expert on credit cards from direct personal experience!


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Henry is a financial writer living in Los Angeles. He's written about most any financial topic under the sun. He also writes some fiction, but rarely about the world of finance. Go figure. He's also been known to write a song or two - but he doesn't write songs about personal finance either. There aren't too many catchy songs about the stock market. Though maybe it's a niche market worth exploring...

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