The other day a letter came in the mail for me. It was that window-letter type of envelope with a red and blue logo printed right on the front. Without even opening it I glanced over the words EXCITING-YOU-25,000! I was obviously intrigued. So I ripped off the end of the envelope and blew into it like an origami paper-balloon. The envelope was stuffed with folded papers of varying weights and finishes, from heavy and matted to wispy and glossy. I pulled out 3 sheets of tri-folded eight and a half by eleven. In a rectangular box in bold lettering I saw a figure, 25,000. What the design of this letter told me (without actually reading the print) was that if I signed up for a credit card, I would in turn receive 25,000 airline miles for free. I wanted these airline miles, even though I've never in my life used any airline miles. But I lost my patience with the paperwork before I'd even begun to read the finer print. So, I wedged the sheets back in the envelope wondering how they'd even fit in there in the first place. This particular letter was like a clown-car of rules and regulations. I threw it on my desk for possible further inspection.
Last night I saw the envelope sitting on my desk and not having anything pressing to do at the moment, I took it to my mom. "Mom, can you read this and explain it to me," I asked. After glancing at the paper-work, flipping it over, glancing at the back, a process that took 3.5 seconds (my mom's a speed-reader) she told me that the offer went like this:
I sign up for the card, they send it to me. If I make $750 worth of purchases in a 4 month period then I qualify for 25,000 miles on American Airlines, which will be credited to me 8 to 10 weeks after I've met the requirement. The rate before I meet the requirement is very low and then after-ward it jumps up to 17.2%. Then, one year after that I pay a $50 annual rate to be a "member" of this benevolent mile-giving credit-card club.
In November the CEO of Citi Group, the company who will be blessing me with my new credit card, resigned after the company posted losses in the billions. The news this morning, and every morning for the last few weeks has been of the economic crisis being fended off in the face of wide-spread mortgage foreclosures as a result of the sub-prime loan debacle. Then I heard one of the reporters say that credit-card defaults will cause the next economic collapse. This made me smile. I've had two credit cards for 8 years and I have never ended a month with a balance of more that zero. What don't we get about the fact that it's credit!? It's not real money! So what I'll do with this new piece of fake-plastic-money, is buy all of my evil gas on it, each week transferring the balance from my checking account to the card. I will write a "DESTROY ON" date on the front of the card and that's what I'll do. And in only five months I'll have 75,000 airline miles that I may never use.