To throw out a card
The Good Life
with Eli F.J. Tajanlangit
Finally, I did it: throw out my Citibank credit card. I had meant to for the last few years, but I couldn't get around to do it, because it really is an effort to do so. While it was so easy getting the card, and the bank kept increasing the credit limit even without asking me, cancelling it was an altogether different matter. There seemed to be a ceremony in cancelling it that I wasn't able to figure out. I once or twice tried, and got referred to a number that did not answer on several attempts, so I gave up. I don't know if this was intentional, this difficulty in cancellation, but there I was, trapped in the debt cycle. Before I knew it, I was using it again and again.
Well, finally I was able to, and I did it, ironically, with the cooperation of the bank itself. The opportunity came when they referred my account to their lawyers for collection: there, finally, was somebody one can talk to who could answer your questions. You see, most of the time, the bank communicated with you electronically, and whatever contact you had with it was limited mostly to those reminding you of your pending payments and they can only discuss that; you need anything else, you are referred to another number.
It was the first in my life to be called by a law office, and it was, to say the least, unnerving. It had called the newsroom, and I was informed by the desk that some Manila law office was looking for me. I had immediately thought it had something to do with what I had written, and remembering nothing even remotely close to libel that I may have done, I immediately returned call. The numbers were busy and the wait was killing. When I finally got through, I was asked a series of questions like I was being booked for something. Before I could protest, I was put on the line with a woman who politely told me I had an overdue. By this time, of course, the back of my neck was sweating despite the air-conditioning and I was being subjected to this because the due date was April 8, and it was already April 13. Five days, and I was now facing a law office, for the princely sum of P4,000+.
I couldn't even remember if they had sent the bill. I have this card for over 10 years already, and there were really times I failed to get the bill, the payments were delayed, but it never got to a lawyer. In fact, at some point in the past, the bank had written to me saying it was waiving some fees because it saw how diligent I was in the payments.
But who was I to complain? I have always believed going into debt is a personal choice, so you shouldn't complain however badly you are treated. Going into debt, especially on the back of a credit card, is something you do not have to, so suffer the consequences.
I could only imagine how much I have paid in interest over the last 10 years or so. Consider that if it was P1,000 per month, that's P12,000 in a year and P120,000 in 10 years. That, now that I look back, is the least I had contributed to the company that was now, subtly, telling me it will hail me to court if
But as politely as I could, I took the opportunity to finally ask how much exactly I owed in all, paid it, and asked that they cancel the card. It took the woman some time let me check with the bank, she said to finally give me the figure and the assurance that yes, the card was going to be cancelled right away. And so ended my debt crisis, and I am telling you this to remind you that that plastic card ain't cute or anything, but can, in fact, be a jail sentence, literally and figuratively.
Of course, as soon as I could, I cut up the card and savored the exhilarating feeling of liberation from debt. I still keep two other cards, issued by Philippine banks to which I can go and whose people can talk to me anytime and discuss things should the need arise, and especially before they refer me to a lawyer.*
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