No card, no credit
Life has its interesting conundrums. Just ask my son, Harvey, who recently discovered that sometimes that while trying to do something the way you believe in you end up doing the opposite and sometimes your determined effort to be frugal and save money proves to be costly.
Harvey, known as H. L. Hix in his world as a poet and full professor at the University of Wyoming, experienced an interesting, conundrum-filled adventure recently as part of a trip to attend and participate in a conference in Canada.
Harvey is a believer in protecting the environment and observing sound ecological actions to prevent further or unnecessary environmental pollution. Not surprisingly, the conference he was attending was on ecology. That being the case, he acknowledged to his mother and me in a phone call that there was a touch of irony in having flown to the site in an airplane that burned thousands of gallons of fuel while leaving an invisible trail of pollution.
Because the conference sessions were on a university campus and hotel lodging for attendees was about three miles away, it was necessary to have transportation. So, he had reserved a rental car in advance, holding to his convictions by making sure it was a small car, not a large gas-guzzler. Keep that in mind; it’s pertinent to the story later.
First, though, you need to understand that Harvey is quite frugal with his money and also averse to participating in some common aspects of the 21st Century. He basically does not buy on credit and thus sees no need for a credit card. His car is paid for and he has no other consumer debts. He sees no need for a cell phone, for example, and therefore does not have one and thus has no monthly cell phone bills due. (Nor, he might point out, does he have to contend with wrong numbers, irritating telemarketers, etc.) That frugality is also one reason for reserving a small car rather than a mid-size or luxury auto.
For years, I have kidded him about not having a credit card and advised him on occasion that he should have one even if he chooses not to use it. A year or so ago he was forced to jump through some hoops when seeking a house loan because he had no credit score. Ironically, when you have no debt and no credit card, you have no credit score. Though it might seem to be to your advantage to be debt free, it can actually be to your disadvantage at times in this society determined to operate on being in debt. People in debt have credit scores and often can obtain loans or additional credit more easily than a debt-free person, who, it would seem, would have no problems obtaining credit.
He was reminded of this conundrum again when he reached the rental car counter and checked in to pick up his auto. With everything checked and approved, he handed the woman his debit card to pay for the rental and his card was denied. Sorry, he was informed, credit cards are acceptable but not debit cards. An unhappy conversation later, he took his luggage and debit card to another car rental company, and the scenario repeated itself. Credit card only, no debit card.
Finally, deciding that a more expensive rental source would be necessary, he went to Hertz. The Hertz representative agreed to run the debit card through his machine and it cleared, but Hertz did not have a small car available. Nor a mid-sized one. Nor a luxury car. The only vehicle available was a large pick-up truck, the very type of vehicle he studiously avoided owning in order not to be a participant in burning large amounts of gasoline and belching pollution into the atmosphere.
So, there he was, a fellow who strives not to be a part of the insane effort that keeps this economy based on being in debt and who conscientiously works not to be a polluter of the atmosphere, driving a gas-guzzler and spending more money for it because of refusing to own that debt tool called a credit card.
Well, son, you were right when you said I would get a chuckle out of your experience. I continue to admire your convictions, but sometime in the future I may still offer a suggestion.
Get a credit card. Who knows, it might even save you some money sometime, huh?