Fribble Thursday, January 27, 2000

Looking for Extra Credit

By Jon Kemp (JonKemp@DHCD.DCGOV.ORG)

Credit was always something I abhorred. Thinking myself more superior than my friends and associates, I knew that cards were a fool's road to ruin. All my life I avoided them like the plague and continued to pay in cash. If ever I wanted an item that was beyond my ability to pay immediately, I convinced the salesman to extend to me a "layaway" plan even when the company didn't offer such a plan.

As I got older this attitude served me well, or so I thought. And then came the loss of my job as I changed careers and an accident which hospitalized me and generated over $20,000 in hospital bills (for a sprained ankle!) and no insurance. This required a payment plan I could not pay in the manner required by the hospital. There was only one option -- bankruptcy. Prior to bankruptcy the hospital was offered by the court the same amount I was willing to continue paying until settling the debt and they said this was acceptable. (However, when I offered it, it was unacceptable.)

My credit friends suggested bankruptcy, telling me that afterwards it should be simple for me to obtain credit. Again common Wisdom was wrong. Oh, I got a lot of offers from car dealers to buy a car, but once I attempted with a job of four years and no other credit problems to obtain a card (to buy via the Internet) I got nothing but refusals because I had NO CREDIT history, save for a Visa debit card. How could I have no credit history -- I declared bankruptcy!? While every car dealer within a 100 mile radius knew I'd done that, not a single credit rating institution had any knowledge of my filing. I was simply a non-person, as though I was in the witness protection program.

So a co-worker is going to get me into her credit union, and hopefully I'll be credit-worthy by then. And to think I thought after years without debt I'd be prized by the credit card companies. Now I'm worried that I might never be able to buy a home because I avoided credit and debt. Well, I'll keep you updated on my continuing struggle to live!