March 2015


… on all my credit cards

First credit cardsThis past couple of weeks, I’ve been talking to my banks – on both sides of the Atlantic – in order to check up on some details of my life.

And it occurred to me that back in January, when I was in Bloomington, I’d visited my safe deposit box and found all my old credit cards – dating back to my freshman year of college.

You’re probably wondering why I’ve saved them.

Here’s why:

Yes, I have Martha Stewart to thank for my collection of credit cards (and other credit card sized documents).

But I’m not saving the credit cards to retile my swimming pool—I neither have a swimming pool in the first place, nor am I even close to having enough to make a large mural.

And that’s a good thing.

Instead I started saving the cards because I thought that one day – way off in the future – it would be interesting to pull out all the credit cards and create a mural of my credit history.

Is 23 years “way off in the future”?

I’m not sure – but it was impressive flipping through my credit cards for a few minutes. My first card was a Citibank card — I even remember filling out the application. I quickly got my second one – a Discover Card. Which led to minor arbitrage opportunities: I would buy my textbooks with the Discover Card, but return the ones I didn’t need using a different card – all to preserve the cash back I’d earned with the Discover Card.

There was an era when the Discover Card was my main choice – I was a dork for their products, even applying for the Bravo Card, which doesn’t seem to exist any more and I’m not really clear in my memory what made it better or different from the Discover Card. Eventually I dropped the Discover Card because I became an international traveler. The Discover Card, back then and even today, was pretty much useless outside the borders of the United States.

Moving to Germany was a bit of a shock to my system: I had (and still have) an amazing credit rating in the United States. Prior to the systematic credit line reductions following the 2008 financial crisis, I had some credit lines that ran into the $20,000+ range. My American credit lines, however, did not translate to Germany and initially I could only get 500€.

At one point my German credit rating took a dive due to the nature of how my first German bank took money out of my bank account before my travel expenses had reimbursed.

However I’m happy to report that my German credit rating has vastly improved: this month I called my main credit card provider in Germany and, on a whim, asked for a substantial credit increase. The man offered to increase it even more than I asked, and not by a trivial amount. So things here are good.

Meanwhile I have a box of old credit cards in my American safe deposit box and I have no idea what exactly I’m going to do with them – they make up a curious detail of my life: few objects are held closer to me on a regular basis.

Maybe only my glasses are closer.

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