Credit cards 101
In my mind, I cannot envisage a life without my credit cards. To me, they are a sign of comfort, security, and most importantly, convenience. Despite the benefits though, there is also a downside to too much dependency and over usage.
Before going any further, let's talk about the history of the credit card in Bangladesh a bit. ANZ Grindlays Bank (now Standard Chartered) first started acquiring international card brands like MasterCard and Visa Card back in 1989 through a limited Merchant Network. It also became the first bank to issue MasterCard and Visa credit cards in this country on January 1, 1997. Nowadays, all major banks provide this invaluable service.
With that said, let's now go over some of the pros and cons of credit cards so that we can use them for all their benefits and none of their pitfalls.
A credit card may just seem like a plastic card, but its benefits far outshine its humble outer form. It is not only secure and easier to carry, but it also gives you a sense of status.
For most of us, the days of carrying wads of cash for buying things are a thing of the past. And that is a good thing too, as carrying around loads of cash was never a good idea, what with all the pickpockets and thugs around!
Most banks are now issuing dual currency credit cards; meaning you can use your credit cards locally as well as overseas. Imagine the bliss of travelling without having to carry lots of foreign currency. The government of Bangladesh has increased the travel quota over the years to $7,000 for non-SAARC countries and $5,000 for SAARC countries. The foreign currency part of your credit card will be connected to this entitlement, provided the necessary dollar endorsement had been made on your passport by your bank.
Checking into good hotels also got a lot easier as a credit card is generally required as a guarantee during your stay. The hotel will always take a deposit depending on the length of your stay. At the end of your stay, the balance will be returned to your card account.
You can also use your card to make online purchases, buying airline tickets, booking hotels, purchasing items on Amazon.
Don't forget that most top banks nowadays have opened their lounges at the airport, both at the International and Domestic sector. Your card (depending on the type you have) will allow you to use said lounges to rest your tired feet before a journey, and also to grab a bite.
I think the American Express slogan of 'Don't Leave Home Without It' perfectly summarises the credit card.
If you ask me, managing this part of the credit card is up to how we use it rather than something actually wrong with it.
First off, credit cards are very susceptible of being stolen if you don't keep an eye on any belonging you are carrying it in. You will be surprised how someone, in the blink of an eye, can get hold of it and use it at big outlets, purchasing just about anything. As soon as you realise it has been stolen, report it immediately, whether you are in the country or travelling. Card issuing banks always have a 24-hour service in place specifically for this eventuality. Try and carry more than one card to avoid being in a helpless situation. Also, it's wise to keep some cash in hand.
The introduction of microchips on our credit cards has made them more secure; meaning you have to use a pin code to pass a transaction. Unfortunately, there are agents working in big outlets who have mastered the art of copying the pin code and your card number and amassing huge bills at your expense! Please make sure you do not share your pin code with anyone. I know of people who are too lazy to go shopping, so are quite comfortable sending someone else with their credit card and pin code to do it instead. This is an absolute NO! Always remember to memorise your pin, and avoid saving it on your cell phone or write it down anywhere. A stolen cell phone can reveal a lot of information.
When you are travelling overseas, use your card carefully, and do not go on a shopping spree with it. We all tend to do it especially since it is so easy to purchase whatever you want with it. I have been a victim myself; it was only when I returned home from a trip that I realised the magnitude of the huge bills I had amassed. Obviously, at that moment of spending, I had conveniently forgotten that I had to pay off the credit card bills sooner or later.
To avoid the maximum amount of burden, it is better to have multiple cards from different banks and split your foreign currency quota between them. That way, if something goes wrong with one card, you have a fallback with the other cards.
As I said before, life without credit cards is unthinkable, and yet, at the same time, we must remember that many things can go wrong if you do not use it with caution and keep it safe and secure.