Personal / October 10, 2012

After Traveling with a Credit Card, I’m Officially Screwed. Thanks, Mom.

My grandiloquent claims that “I’d be fine!” did not soothe my mother’s concern. Her words were cautious and careful, and she maintained a steady, warning tone.

“It’s all good, Ma!” I’d claim. “I’m 24 years old—I’m an adult and I’m pretty sure I can handle traveling with a credit card. The minimum payments are small. I’ll just make sure I budget appropriately.”

“What’s your budget anyway?” she’d ask.

I wasn’t really sure. I told her I’d figure it out when I got there.

I was leaving home with a one-way ticket to Australia and a shiny new credit card. Obviously, this was a suitable time to get one. With no steady income or particular life plans, this was clearly the perfect occasion to try to manage a good credit score.

Having never owned a credit card before, I felt grown-up, responsible and incredibly proud. I had all this free money that some bank decided I was mature enough to handle! And, after reading through countless contracts (my brain hurt from all the percentages), I managed to find, seemingly, the only card in existence that didn’t charge foreign transaction fees.

It’s okay, guys. Don’t worry. I had everything under control.

I got on my plane and (skipping a lot of hours here) arrived in Australia. When I checked into my hostel, I paid the remaining balance on my spanking new card. “Nice one! I haven’t even technically paid for this! I think I do that later or something. These MasterCard people are a bunch of suckers!”

I felt unencumbered! The world was mine. Scarface repeated in my memory: “Me? I want what’s coming to me. The world, chico, and everything in it!”

Well, I spent a lot of money on that trip, and to be honest with you, I did get the world and everything in it. These have been the most remarkable two and a half years of my life. I could not have asked for anything better.

But I’m still recovering from it. Having essentially been on holiday for two and a half years, the “spend it while you can” mindset leaves my dollars asunder. To make matters more difficult, my bank told me there was no way to make payments on this card from an Australian bank account. What could I do?

Sure, I could wire money to my mother every month and ask her to pay my card off for me, but a) that becomes very expensive, b) it’s a major hassle, and c) it proves her right. I couldn’t let that happen.

With no other feasible option, I just sort of…forgot about it.

Fast forward two years to the day I arrived home.

I stepped into my room and found two large shopping bags sitting on my bed, each stuffed with mail…a lot of mail. Actually, it was mostly just collection notices.

Oops.

I swear she had been plotting this. Okay, she did actually tell me when some important notices had arrived, and even scanned them and emailed them to me (I just couldn’t believe she figured out how to use the scanner!). My inbox has a habit of filling up quickly, and those notices ended up getting lost in the shuffle.

So, in no way did she prove herself right (it’s not really her style), but she actually, without saying a word, proved me very, very wrong (totally her style).

I’d just like to take this opportunity to say thanks, Mom.

Now, looking back, I realize there would have been a much easier way. Had I managed my finances a bit better, and if my bank account back home were still open, I could have been transferring funds back and forth and managing all my payments online. Instead I let my finances fall to the wayside. Big mistake.

So I went from having no credit to having bad credit, in what seemed like an instant. Although, it’s no big surprise. Especially for me.

I’ve learned a lot about the world in the past couple of years. I’ve learned of people, destinations, love, and the general idiosyncrasies of life. The biggest lesson I’ve had to learn, though, is not to screw your credit rating.

It kind of sucks.


READ NEXT: On Re-Entry and Reverse Culture Shock: Returning to the United States After 13 Months in Asia

Send this to a friend