Putting the You Back Into Usury

Last week was a big one for my web site. That was the month it received an offer for its very own credit card. I've grown used to getting daily credit card offers in the mail, but now Capital One has decided to lure my web site into the wondrous land of debt. I'm tempted to respond, if only because: how weird would it be to have a credit card with the words "Joe Lavin's Humor Column" embossed on the front?

It's a little strange. You would think a financial company professional enough to get a responsible and trusted celebrity such as David Spade to be its spokesperson wouldn't want to be associated with my site. Or maybe not. At the very least, their whole marketing strategy is based on the premise that they say yes when other credit card companies say no. They might want to rethink that policy now that they are offering credit to an online humor column.

They are offering credit to my web site, primarily because they think it is a "small business." Hey, at least they got the "small" part right. Believe it or not, they are offering my web site a credit line of up to $20,000, though frankly I don't think Capital One has properly examined my web site's credit report. Most writers start web sites to bring in a little revenue. Now, I have a web site that can go out on the town and spend me into bankruptcy. I always suspected that my writing career would put me $20,000 into debt. Little did I know how prescient I would be. I just hope my web site doesn't come across any of those e-mails from Nigeria.

Captial One's offer is actually pretty good. They are offering 0% on all balance transfers until March 2007, which will definitely help my web site pay off the expenses from its wild trip to Las Vegas last summer. (Don't ask; what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.) The card also includes travel rewards, though I always get a little annoyed when my web site gets to travel, and I don't.

I shouldn't really be surprised by any of this. It's ridiculous how many credit card offers I receive each week. It has gotten to the point that I start to worry about the credit card industry if I don't hear from them for a few days. "Gee, I hope they didn't fall down or something. I'd better to call to see if they're okay." I even get offers for credit cards that I already have. I used to make jokes about paying my Visa off with my Master Card. Now, I think I can pay off my Capital One Visa with my Capital One Master Card.

All of these credit cards offer 0% for about a year after which storm troopers will show up at your door. Their goal, of course, is that you'll miss a payment, at which point you'll start getting charged about 27% interest and will wake up one morning in a bathtub full of ice with your left kidney missing.

Still, it's possible to play the 0% game and do very well indeed. I know more than one person who has done this. Once you get one 0% card, it's not all that difficult to transfer your balance to another 0% card when the first offer runs out. Granted, this could possibly hurt your credit report. It could make you appear to be irresponsible with your money, but fear not. That's exactly what the credit card industry is looking for. After all, if everybody paid credit card bills on time, the credit card industry wouldn't actually make much money.

They want people who are financially savvy enough to be able to get into debt in the first place, but financially incompetent enough to rack up a huge balance, which will eventually be charged 27% interest and the aforementioned kidney. They can then sell the kidney on the black market and make a big profit. Or offer it to new customers to entice them to sign up. "0 % interest on all balance transfers and a free kidney until March 2007!"

And so, after careful consideration, I have decided against getting a Captial One credit card for my web page. If I've learned anything in life, it's this: Never trust David Spade.

  • http://JoeLavin.com

    A periodic humor column, disguised as a blog. New columns published on Tuesdays or not as the case may be.



  • I've written for Slate, The Boston Globe Magazine, Salon, McSweeney's, WBUR Radio, The Christian Science Monitor, The Globe and Mail, and many other publications. Thanks for dropping by. I hope you enjoy my Internet column.

  • ©1995-2009 Joe Lavin