Michael on April 1st, 2010
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Credit cards can change your life.

You: Excellent!

Not necessarily for the better.

You: Oh. I mean . . . right.

There are some upsides to credit cards for those who use them responsibly.

You: Such as?

Benefits include building a credit history, the convenience of not carrying around a lot of cash, the ability to pay for things many days after you enjoy them, and, often, obtaining some form of customer protection if what you purchase turns out not to be any good.

You: A ha!  I was just saying credit cards aren’t totally bad.

And they’re not. But they’re not all good either, especially when they are used by people who don’t truly understand how they work.

You: Does anybody really understand how they work?

A few members of the legal department at most credit card companies understands how their product works.  In addition, some credit card experts truly understand their chosen specialty.  But the average consumer has, at best, a limited understanding of the little piece of plastic that enables most of their life to function.

You: Why is that?

Because the terms and conditions are written in a microscopic font that, even if it were in large type with pictures would bore a hyperactive debt professor. The content is simply not stimulating and, consequently, few people – even motivated – can get through it.

You: So what should I do?

Focus on the most important parts of debt and credit card management, like never borrowing what you can’t afford to repay and understanding how your finance charges are calculated.  With all of this in mind, I recently spent some time on LifeTuner’s new micro-site Don’t Get Swiped, part of their campaign to shed light on how credit cards affect young consumers and how credit card debt can impact their finances through the future.

Don’t Get Swiped does a great job highlighting, often in a humorous fashion, the common ways in which credit cards begin to overwhelm their users.  Several videos comically demonstrate the aforementioned difficulty in paying attention to terms.  Another page shows the common excuses (i.e., inadvertent lies) people tell themselves as to why they need to use credit cards for a certain item.  (Plus, you can add your own excuse if you want).

A separate resources page lists places to learn even more about managing credit card debt.  As part of LifeTuner, the micro credit card site also often leads you back to LifeTuner’s core content, where you’ll have the opportunity to post questions and have them answered by experts (including yours truly).

Take a gander at Don’t Get Swiped and let me know what you think.

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