The Borrowers

10 purchases not to put on credit cards

Marketplace Staff Jul 8, 2009


1. Traffic tickets: You look reckless. And tickets can push up your insurance rates, which could put a strain on your finances, which could make it harder for you to pay your bills. A lot of people who have charged traffic tickets have defaulted on their cards.

2. Retreading your tires: You’d be surprised how many people do this. Why? Usually, because they can’t afford new tires. If you’ve bought new tires in the past, this can look like a desperate move. Credit card companies don’t like desperation.

3. Bargain binges: If you haven’t used your credit card at a 99-cent store or at Wal-Mart, don’t start now! Downshifting to lower-cost retailers — or shopping at places that attract financially pinched shoppers — makes it look like you’re worried about your finances or about your job. American Express has been accused of cutting people’s credit because they shopped at Wal-Mart.

4. Adult Playthings: No one’s judging you — just your purchases. Porn is seen as escapism by card companies. And guess what they’re thinking you’re trying to escape from? Financial worries. Ditto for strip clubs. Use cash. Swipe your card, get your credit cut.

5. Marriage Counseling and Therapy: Money is at the root of many psychological problems. And plenty of relationship problems, too. Relationship problems can lead to divorce. Divorce can destroy your finances. Needing therapy may also make it look like you’re unstable.

6. Lottery Tickets: Yes, hope springs eternal, but lottery tickets don’t count as a sound financial plan, and you don’t want your card company to think you’re irresponsible — or a gambler. Oh yeah, don’t take your Visa to Vegas.

7. Cash Advances: Credit-card companies used to love these products because they brought in loads in interest charges. But tapping your card for cash? Or using a credit-card check to pay other bills? Not a good look.

8. Personal pampering: If you don’t normally splurge at the spa, don’t put your facial or massage on your plastic. It may look like you’re trying to relax because you’re worried about — what else — money. Or, that you’re trying to reduce stress from a job loss, or pretty up for a job search.

9. Income Taxes: Whenever you rack up one bill (by using your credit card) to pay another bill (your taxes) it raises a red flag. Could be your debts and bills are overwhelming you.

10. Booze: Carry cash to the bar, especially if you were there last night, too. Springing for too many drinks may be a sign of job stress, financial stress, or relationship stress. And charging booze several times in a row will make it seem like your bar binge was not a fluke.

We’re here to help you navigate this changed world and economy.

Our mission at Marketplace is to raise the economic intelligence of the country. It’s a tough task, but it’s never been more important.

In the past year, we’ve seen record unemployment, stimulus bills, and reddit users influencing the stock market. Marketplace helps you understand it all, will fact-based, approachable, and unbiased reporting.

Generous support from listeners and readers is what powers our nonprofit news—and your donation today will help provide this essential service. For just $5/month, you can sustain independent journalism that keeps you and thousands of others informed.