Man using credit card and smartphone for online shopping.
Posted by: Howard Dvorkin, CPA
Date of post: July 2, 2018

Where will credit cards be in 5-10 years? Probably nowhere good.

This seems like it has nothing to do with credit cards, but it actually does…

A customer service company called Helpshift polled 1,000 Americans and found 44 percent “would rather scrub a toilet than call customer support.”

Long hold times, constant transfers, hard-to-understand representatives, and confusing menu options were all mentioned as reasons.

While the worst offenders were cell phone companies and airlines, I know how daunting it can be to call a credit card phone number and navigate the endless options. Overall, credit card companies are much more responsive than, say, your local cable company, but the very nature of the business is what callers dread.

Credit cards have become so important to our daily lives that we might as well consider them like a cell phone. Can you imagine living without either? Yet both are more confusing than they need to be.

Sadly, one bad cell phone contract will cost you hundreds of dollars, maybe even a couple thousand — but bad credit card decisions can drive people into bankruptcy.

Recent studies don’t reassure me that credit card debt won’t get much worse before it gets better…

Comparing credit cards

Americans love to score a great deal. We clip coupons, scour the Internet for discounts, and haggle over prices. Yet when it comes to credit cards, we love to use them for shopping — but we rarely shop for better deals on our credit cards.

US News & World Reports conducted a recent study and found, “nearly half of respondents didn’t research their card before signing up. Further, more than 50 percent of those surveyed don’t regularly shop around for better cards.”

That’s stunning when you consider the statistics: The average American household carries more than $16,000 on their credit cards, and nearly 3 percent are delinquent on their payments.

I don’t make hard-and-fast predictions — although I’ve often mused about the next recession — so let me phrase the future like this…

Possibility: As credit card debt climbs well past $1 trillion, the term  debt management program will soon become a household word. There once was a time in this country when everyone wasn’t on a diet. Now everyone is. Soon, everyone you know will be on a debt diet — with the same yo-yo levels of success.

Small business has a big problem

The economy is humming if not roaring, and that means, “almost 57 percent of small business owners said their outlook on business growth over the next 12 months was fairly positive or positive,” according to a new report from Smartbiz.

Yet that might be built on a house of cards — credit cards.

“On average, small business owners use twice as many personal credit cards than consumers,” says another study from Nav. That’s nearly five cards per small business, with the average total credit limit topping $35,000. (It’s just over two cards and nearly $18,500 for consumers.)

Now, I realize not every small business is maxing out its credit cards every month, but when you consider the average credit card interest rate is 16 percent, that really cuts into profits — and even worse, growth.

Possibility: Remember the housing bubble? I wonder: Will we one day face the bursting of a small business bubble? And will credit card debt be the culprit?