How to live off the credit card grid

European credit cards use a "chip and pin" system that most American cards do not.

Your credit -- or lack thereof -- not only determines if and how you borrow money, but if an employer will hire you. If not having credit could mean not getting a job, can you afford to not use credit at all?

Michelle Singletary, Washington Post Columnist, has taken her own cleanse from credit cards in the past, and tells us how you can afford to live credit free.

“There are people who can live without credit, but they tend to be much more financially secure,” Singletary says. “They’ve already established credit at some point, and now they don’t want to use it anymore, so they already laid that groundwork.”

One big plus is you’re less likely to use money, since you don’t have readily available access to money. “Studies show when you use credit, you spend more than when you use cash. And you can go off the grid when you want to.”

But, credit is being used for many more things than getting more credit -- it's being used by insurers and nearly two-thirds of employers now use it to screen job applicants. How can you go off the credit grid and still land that next job?

Singletary says honesty is the best policy: “Just let the employer know, ‘Listen, there’s nothing going on, I just decided that I want to use cash.’ What they’re looking for is people who have low credit scores, or people who have misused credit. You have to let them know upfront.”

“Particularly if you have a government job, and you’re looking for security clearance, let the investigator know this is what’s going on … it’s the negative stuff that will hurt you.”

About the author

Carmen Wong Ulrich is the former host of Marketplace Money, APM’s weekend personal finance program.

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