Steve Salerno wrote a piece on his SHAM blog, Attention Walmart Shoppers, which caught my attention. I’m not a Wal-mart shopper, but the article he mentioned might be interesting to anyone who is a bargain hunter on a budget and using credit cards to get the next big deal.
Have you used your credit card at merchants specializing in secondhand clothing, retread tires, bail bond services, massages, casino gambling or betting? Your credit card issuer may be taking note — and making decisions about your creditworthiness based on your purchasing behavior. The reason: Buying used clothing or retread tires may be an indication of financial distress and a preamble to missed credit card payments or defaults.
I don’t know if this is a concern above the 49th parallel or not, but it might be worth thinking about. In the States now, Congress and regulators are going to be watching for credit company shenanigans, to see if they’re linking spending habits with increased interest rates or lowered credit limits.
This recording of information is hardly a new thing. I remember it being a concern brought up about grocery club cards too, that the information saved in the little magnet strip could be used to target homes that buy certain products on a regular basis and pummel them with flyers and other more specialized junk. Did that ever happen? I have no idea.
As an aside, Walmart does independent studies of their own as to what they should stock based on the stats they collect about general purchasing habits of those who shop there. This instant record keeping they’ve got helps them keep their ordering up to date, but also helps them track shopping trends across countries, especially when it comes to what people are going to want when disaster strikes. They realized they’d better stock up on Strawberry Pop Tarts during hurricane season because people in past disasters migrated to that particular comfort food like rats to refuse. In case you think I’m kidding, here’s a link, and here’s one more.
Experts say cardholders concerned about keeping purchasing habits private or avoiding credit score dings should consider using cash or gift cards, stored value or prepaid debit cards. Shopping at large supermarkets or wholesale clubs — which offer a variety of product lines — may also keep some purchases private. Other tips: Spread purchases that may indicate risky behavior over several credit cards to avoid triggering an alert for a single issuer.
“Cash is the ultimate privacy protector,” says Stephens. “It’s kind of hard to trace. With most other payment mechanisms there is going to be a trail.”
But avoiding credit cards for the sake of privacy may present a quandary for some users: If they had the cash to pay for an item, they wouldn’t need a credit card. For others, the convenience of using a credit card over other payment methods far outweighs the potential privacy concerns.
I dunno. Think before you buy. Do you really need it, or can you live without it until you can afford to buy with cash? Will you be able to pay off the expense within a few months assuming no other major purchases are made with the card in the meantime? Do you really need it? Do you really need it? I’m asking twice because it’s important.
I bought year subscriptions to last.fm and flickr, neither of which I needed. Just thought I’d throw that out there. I could afford to pay those charges back the very day I did them, though, and that’s what I did.
I could just as easily take my card to an electronics store and get myself a brand new television. I want one. I don’t need one (yet), but I drool every time I pass a flat screen with a picture so crisp that I could climb into it and walk the streets of Paris. I really want one. But then I’d have to get a new TV stand and probably a new sound system because what’s a great picture beside shitty sound? Shitty.
Some furniture company called me today suggesting I come in and have a look at what they’ve got. I told the guy I already had all the furniture I needed, but I could have taken him up on whatever offer he was going to tell me about and gone to get a new couch tonight. I’d like a new couch. I forked out (cash) for a new office chair recently and it’s making my couch jealous with its sexy legs and reclined positioning. I tried to appease my couch with some discount tapestry cushions but it’s not fooled. Where am I sitting right now? On my sexy chair.
Maybe my couch would feel better if I put on a DVD. I could recline on those discount tapestry cushions, pop some corn and watch some Doctor Who…