Remember that the credit card bill is coming

Remember that the credit card bill is coming
December 22
04:05 2016

James B. Ewers Jr.

Guest Columnist

I received my first credit card many years ago, when I was a college student. I did not apply for it nor did I have a credit check to see if I was eligible.

It just came to my college post office box. As I reflect now, how did they get my name, much less my mailing address?

It was a gasoline credit card. That was strange because I did not own an automobile and had no plans to acquire one. I was a sophomore student at Johnson C Smith University in Charlotte.

So, I was a big man on campus, at least in my mind, because I had a gasoline credit card and no car. What I found out later was several of my college buddies also had received the same gasoline credit card.

I ended up using it a few times to put gas in some of my friends’ cars. I guess I was just showing off.

One of the interesting things that I learned about my gas credit card was it had an interest rate. Further I learned if you paid the balance after the due date there was a late fee added to the original balance. I realized early on that paying off your balance on or before the due date was a good thing.

When I graduated from college and went to graduate school, I started to receive more credit cards and credit card offers. I thought to myself that these companies are following me. Again, I soon found out they were “following” a lot of my friends, too.

Another thing I learned about credit cards is that because they send them doesn’t mean you have to accept them. I was proud of myself because I returned them to the companies.

Over time, I have understood more and more about credit card companies and how they operate.

If we must use a credit card let’s be aware of the interest rate. We must know the difference between a fixed rate of interest and a variable rate of interest.

Stores and credit card companies offer us some incentives to lure new customers. For example, if you and I apply, we’ll get an additional 5,000 points to use toward our first purchase.

I don’t want a credit card company to get too comfortable with my patronage so every few months I will call to check about lower interest rates. I will also call to let them know about other companies offering me better interest rates. I will tell you that these strategies have worked to my benefit.

Some years ago, credit card vendors would come onto college campuses with all kinds of gimmicks. For example, they would offer students a T-shirt or a cap if they signed up. What many students didn’t realize was they were going to receive a credit card with an extremely high interest rate. Thankfully, this practice has stopped.

I believe young consumers are the most vulnerable when it comes to credit cards. I also think that online shopping has resulted in increased credit card use. While the online price may be less expensive, you will probably use a credit card. Just remember that the credit card bill is coming at the end of the month.

Whenever possible, let’s try to use cash and\or a debit card. That will always ensure that we won’t receive a bill at the end of the month.

While we may not think about it, our children are watching our spending habits. Let’s be good fiscal managers and model good credit card use for them. As we know, they will grow up and model our behaviors.

I am going to be a better credit card user. The incentives won’t sway me to use my credit card.

Won’t you join me?

James B. Ewers  Jr. Ed.D. is a former tennis champion at Atkins High School in Winston-Salem and played college tennis at Johnson C. Smith University, where he was all-conference for four years. He a retired college administrator.  He can be reached at

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