On July 1, I lost my Gold MasterCard that had a billing address in Florida, where my parents lived and covered the expenses. It was replaced with an Alumni Association Visa card that was billed directly to me and only me. On Monday, its most recent bill arrived — all four digits of it. I realized then that I was broke. No, I was in debt. A lot of it. I knew this was going to happen though, so I can’t pretend to act too surprised. About a week ago, before starting a tab at the Tombs with my Visa, I called the discreet toll-free number printed on the back of my card in an attempt to find out the actual nature of my credit card debt. “Thank you for calling MBNA America’s automated account system,” I barely heard a computerized voice say over the noise of the Tombs. “To learn the amount of your available credit, please press one now.” I pressed one. “Your available credit is three dollars.” I hung up the phone, shocked. I knew that I had been spending a lot of money lately, but I had no idea it was that much. I instantly decided that I wasn’t paying for anything that night and gave my card to someone else for safe keeping. At the beginning of August, I had three zeroes worth of credit. That night, halfway through September, they were all gone. And so the bill came on Monday and [Georgetown’s newspaper of record greeted me on Tuesday morning with an article covering the dangers of credit card abuse](https://www.thehoya.com/news/survey-finds-student-debt-a-problem/). Well, better late than never. After I’d already spent a fortune at the Tombs they told me that thanks to my debt I probably drink twice as much as normal students and have a lower GPA. Not to mention the fact that I smoke three times as much and I’m “four times as likely to be on medication for depression.” The problem with those assertions, however, is that all of those things – aside from depression, which I get for free – stem from the use of my credit card. It was credit that allowed me, over the past few months, to afford cigarettes, drink heavily and get bad grades. I’d put Busch and Marlboro’s on the Visa each night and sleep straight through my 10:15 the next morning. But now, since that phone call from the Tombs where I learned how much in debt I really was and altered my spending habits accordingly, I can no longer afford cigarettes, I’ve been drinking much less – because my friends are tired of buying me beer – and my grades have improved. Credit never hurt me; it simply helped me afford to hurt myself. And it’s not only me who is hurting. “Credit cards are the bane of my existence,” said Steve Goldenberg (GSB ’99), who sympathized with me after I told him of my mounting debt. But what exactly does that mean? “Credit cards are the bane of Steve’s existence,” his roommate, Jude Gorman (GSB ’99), clarified. Oh, now I understand. And I’m also a little frightened, because these guys are business school kids, who are presumably skilled enough in the mathematical arts and financial sciences to realize that forty pitchers of $6 beer means a bill of – hold on, let me ask them – $240. That’s the leap of logic I never quite made. And if credit, and the accompanying math problems are the bane of existence for guys in the Business School, what chance in hell does an English major like me have? It could be worse though. I could be a history major like my friend Jonathan Fallin (COL ’99). He thinks the MBNA people are about to send a thug to his house. “I’m scared,” he told me. He probably should be. How many other people are also scared? How many other people, when I told them I was writing about my recent credit card bill just shook their head and said they knew what I meant? I’ll tell you how many: a lot. All of you out there who are adult enough to carry credit not attached to your father’s bank account are probably swimming in good old-fashioned American debt. And to those of you who aren’t: grow up. You are all just like me. An $80 bar tab here, a $180 speeding ticket there (81 mph on a rural street, by the way, should not be a crime) and before you know it a massive bill from a bank in Delaware has arrived and you’re cowering in your basement like Jonathan, hoping that the next guy at the door won’t be the one sent to break your knees. It’s a tough life we students lead with our credit cards. I needed to get out of the house. I threw my bill on a stack of mail on the floor and walked down to the Tombs. I took my usual seat in the corner next to Jason Pollack (COL ’99), the usual guy who sits next to me and I told him about my finances. “Don’t worry,” he said, “I’m pathetic too.” Brook, our bartender walked over. “I’m in a lot of debt thanks to you,” I told him. “Welcome back,” he said. “Thanks,” I replied. “I think I need a drink.” Just put it on my Visa. A Famous Hoya Columnist appears Fridays in The Hoya.

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