“Neither a borrower nor a lender be; For loan oft loses both itself and friend,And borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry.
This above all: to thine own self be true,And it must follow, as the night the day,Thou canst not then be false to any man.”
Soliloquy by Polonius in William Shakespeare’s Hamlet
Being credit averse was inherent in my father’s nature and he wanted to inculcate the same habit in me as well. My father worked all his life as a Government Servant as it was rather quaintly termed in those days. And till he reached the final decade of his service, the Credit Card did not even exist in the Indian market. And even if had been offered one at that time when it was meant for the elites and was not a mass retail finance product, I doubt he would have signed for it.
It was in the year 1999, when I was pursuing my final year course in Management, when an MNC Bank’s provided the students with a free Credit Card as a trial offer. It was part of their marketing strategy to ‘catch them young and build loyalty for the future’. It was a great status symbol to flaunt.
And I was sure, preening like a Peacock to be given one but it simply made no real sense to my father. “What sort of a Bank is it that issued a Credit Card to someone who had no income? What happens to the Card dues if you fail to complete the course or fail to find a job?”, he wondered with genuine skepticism.
But the Credit Card was a great convenience and I delighted to use it to use it wherever possible instead of paying cash. I only had a joint account with my elder brother at that time with a Public Sector Bank and they had not started issuing ‘payable at par’ cheques yet. And so I guess, as it must have popular in those early days, I used to make my month card payments by depositing Cash in the ATM machine.
Over the next ten years, I eventually became a Banker myself and became part of the retail finance boom that ensured that Credit Card became a mass retail product and carrying multiple credit cards became the acceptable norm. Indians are well-known to look for ‘value-for-money’ propositions and people held the free plastic to avail customized benefits on various cards ranging from air miles, discounts at petrol pumps, dining privileges, co-branded cards with retail chains, cards providing access to airport lounges, cards providing access to Golf clubs etc etc. You name it and we had it.
Eventually some people lost their way in managing their personal finances. They blamed their credit cards for their spending binges and for having started to revolving on their cards. I have no sympathy for people who were happy to avail the amazing convenience and privileges that the ‘free-for-life’ credit cards lavished on them but they in turn, could not be disciplined about the way they went about using their cards. It is a matter of making the right choices and as adults, we are responsible for our actions.
And I take a rare pride in having got a Credit Card even before I started to work and yet having never paid a single rupee towards interest. Not a bad record to keep for over 15 years now. It is an ingrained habit to pay the full dues on the due date. And am sure that a blemishless record on your Credit Bureau history is worth the effort as you will be offered the best possible deals by Banks whenever you look to avail any of their facilities.
I have friends who have a chequered past with their Credit Cards and some of them have shifted to using Debit Cards that offer the same convenience and deals like a Credit Cards. It is almost the same transaction except that you pay upfront by using your cash balance in your bank account. I can respect their approach since it solves a critical problem that some of face in having a disciplined approach to card usage. Thankfully I don’t face that issue so can comfortably use by Credit Cards – the early lessons of thrift dinned into my young ears by my father seemed to have worked after all.