Sunday, February 21, 2010

More people say no to credit

What's in her wallet? Not a single credit card.
Melanie Roberts has resisted the temptation ever since credit card companies began soliciting her in college, and even now, as she and her husband need a new freezer and to get their house rewired, they'd rather save up than put it on plastic.

"We already have our student loan debt, and now we have our mortgage," said the 28-year-old Nashvillian, who has never applied for a credit card. "We don't want to get into that trap of using a card and later getting a huge bill."

Others, like Jeremy Gover, cut their cards up after a period of out-of-control spending.

His first year away from home, at age 18, he racked up some $7,000 in credit card debt, totaling about $10,000 with interest and late fees. He paid the card off after six years, largely through mutual fund shares his dad gave him as a trust fund of sorts.

"Instead of using that money for a down payment on a house or to buy a new car, I had to pay off my card," said the 32-year-old Spring Hill man, who couldn't recall anything memorable he put on his credit card, using it for ordinary expenses like eating out and going to sporting events. "I was young and dumb and thought I had endless money."

Currently, he only uses a prepaid credit card to pay monthly bills.

Although society makes it hard not to have a credit card — ever tried to rent a car or book a flight without a 16-digit card number? — those who have sworn them off may be on to something.

The number of new credit cards issued dropped 45 percent last year, according to Equifax Consumer Credit Trends. A number of factors could have contributed to the decrease, including the recession, pressured securities markets, rising unemployment and changes to credit card regulations, Equifax spokeswoman Jennifer Costello said.

Similarly, there has been a 9.5 percent drop in credit card use from 2008 to 2009, and credit card debt levels have fallen from $988 billion in 2008 to $894 billion in the past year, according to the Federal Reserve.

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Washington Report: FHA Tightening StandardsCredit card users let up