I’m old enough to remember life before credit/debit cards. My earliest memory of credit was running a tab at your local business and paying at the end of the month or writing a check against a loan you took out at the bank.
My ‘credit score’ when I started my adult life consisted of community knowledge regarding who my parents were, where I worked and the belief that if my family borrowed, they paid it back.
I also remember the decade or more of consistent bombardment regarding how our money system was evolving towards a completely electronic one. All the benefits of an electronic banking system were touted, ad nauseam:
“It’s safer and cheaper than writing a check or paying cash” and “Electronic is good for the environment – less paper use” are two of the promises I most remember.
This morning’s news story on new Checkout surcharges for credit card purchases reminded me that the future of electronic banking promised in the 70’s and 80’s is not what we are living today.
As with most other things, there is no free lunch. Money saved from laborious processes and paper-handling has enriched owners/investors in credit companies, not saved money for the average merchant or consumer.
Those who have weathered life’s storms but took longer than usual to bounce back from their traumas are seen as irresponsible and unworthy of any future benefits.
Identity theft, hacking, phishing and other Modern Day Bandit methods have replaced good ole’ burglary, larceny and fraud by selling snake oil.
Per-sweep charges, transaction charges and merchant account fees mean higher overall prices for everyone, including those who pay cash, who do not reap Point Rewards and are usually the ones with the least amount of disposable income to squander on built-in transaction fees.
I also find it interesting that in a time when the nation is full of “We must get out of debt – personally and nationally”, the news, op eds and blogs are filled with outrage over banks and credit card companies raising their rates and fees.
If we are all striving to be debt free and doing our best not to incur new debt, they have to make money some way other than interest on loans – why do raised fees surprise us?
Our credit score now determines not only if we are worthy of getting a new home or car, but whether we can qualify for required vehicle insurance, health insurance, nab that interview, new job or even if we are good enough to date, let alone marry.
In other words, those who thought the birth of the Social Security System and their assigned number was the “Mark of the Beast” from biblical Revelations were wrong –
666 actually refers to your credit score. It affects where you live, what you can buy, whether you work or not. It can block you from reasonably priced products that are required by law (vehicle insurance) and you may only be a law abiding citizen if you can afford it.
Should we choose to abolish cash to adopt a fully electronic banking system, using the system as it exists today – Financial Armageddon is not far behind for anyone.