Dangerous things credit cards

My Favorite Dangerous Things:

Fire, knives, nail guns, cars, and credit cards.

These are a few of my favorite dangerous things, and they all have something in common, besides the danger.  A caring person took the time to teach me how to use all of these wonderful dangerous things.


As kids we’re told “Don’t play with matches!!!”, but I don’t have memories of my father ever saying those words to me.  Dad let and even encouraged me to play with matches and fire, while under his supervision.  My experiences with fire started at such an early age, it seems like I always knew how to strike a match, start fires in the wood stove, and build campfires.

Not all Dad’s lessons always went as planned, and I do have a few memories of minor burns.  One such incident involved my friend Brantley and a flaming marshmallow stuck against my arm.  It was the early 80’s, and we probably just treated the burn by rubbing some dirt on it.


Knives are another big no-no for kids, but my brothers and I learned knife skills early.  I have fond memories sitting around the table using X-acto knives to carve wooden blocks for the pinewood derby.  At the derby, it was clear that many of the cars were made by fathers, but my brother and I always carved our own cars.

It wasn’t just small razor X-acto knives.  My favorite knife has always been a sharp 10 inch chef’s knife.  Chopping ingredients to assist my father cooking is another great memory from childhood.  My first real job was dishwasher for a local restaurant.  I was clueless on cleaning everything at a high speed, but I began the job able to hold my own with food prep.

I’m bound to have cut myself as a kid, but it must never have been too serious, because I don’t have any memory of an injury.

My nail gun.

My second real job was assisting carpenters at a construction company.  There was one particular carpenter named Marshal working there, and I still consider him to be one of my greatest teachers ever. He looked after me, and taught me to use nail guns, saws, and other dangerous tools, during my teenage years.  I’ve heard many gruesome stories, and witnessed a few construction site injuries. Luckily Marshal trained me well, and I stayed safe and injury free through many summers.


My daughter, JumpStart Jill has her learner’s permit, and we’ve been driving lately. Maybe I’m getting soft, but I’m never more scared than when my kids are behind the wheel.  It would be just fine with me, if Jack and Jill never drove again.  However, I know how serious the stakes are, and it is a parent’s responsibility to train JS Jill to the best of my ability.

Despite my parents and my Drivers Ed teacher, I got a few tickets and had a couple of fender benders, before I was out of high school.  JS Jack was a little smoother with one incident.

Despite the danger, my kids are going to drive, and the lessons must be taught.

Last of the Dangerous Things: Credit Cards.

Credit cards are the last item on the list, and my real purpose behind this post.  This item is different from the others, because I actually don’t remember being taught about credit cards, and haven’t got any strong images from my college years.

 I think I got my first Discover card to avoid going inside at gas stations.  A few years later I began using the USair card exclusively.  The USair card was my card for over 10 years, and I got a few free flights. Over the last 5 years, I’ve had over a hundred cards, and abused the banks earning millions of miles and points.  I’ve traveled to Europe, Saint Thomas, Vegas twice, NYC thrice, and south Florida multiple times very cheaply.

Some people are shocked that I steer my kids toward dangerous credit cards.

If I’m going to teach my kids to handle credit cards without getting burned, my best chance is the late high school and early college years.  My kids are already hooked on nice hotels, plane rides, and travel.  It is my duty to equip them with skills to travel cheaply.

My son JS Jack had a debit card under his name tied to his checking account at age 15, and an authorized user AMEX card not long after.  He’s currently almost 19 and has 3 personal credit cards and a store card.

Are credit cards dangerous for college kids?


Am I worried about JS Jack running up credit card debt?

Not really.

I’m pretty confident I taught him how to use this tool already.  Email alerts are sent to me from his accounts, and I know his passwords.

Car wrecks, binge drinking, Meningitis, and crippling student loans are way more scary than credit cards.

Now that he has credit card skills, and has demonstrated the self-control, the benefits outweigh the risks.

Below is a list of benefits of using credit cards in college.  Notice that I did not include “using credit cards to pay for large purchases over time”.  That isn’t a benefit.  Banks use this sales tactic to set a trap.  I also didn’t mention low interest.  Pay balances in full every month and never pay interest.

If you pay interest, you will lose, and these benefits are not worth it.

Benefits for responsible credit card users.

  • Learn self-control and how to avoid stupid credit card use.
  • Improve credit score.
  • Earn bonuses including miles and cashback.
  • Get credit card perks including free checked bags and gold status.

Well, I’m off to find something to shoot with my nail gun.


Posted in Credit cards, Family finances.


    • There are some warnings about credit card debt in college. Back in our day, credit card companies would set up tables on campuses. That practice is over, but now they advertise through the internet.
      No credit cards is a safe strategy, but you might graduate with no/low credit score.
      A no annual fee credit card that you never use and keep at zero balance is a good strategy.
      If you have a decent guide/teacher, you can act like JS Jack.

  1. I think it’s good that you’re teaching this to them while they’re under your care. You can guide them to not mess up, but if they do… They’re still under your care. Not nearly as scary as going out unprepared.

    I got offered a free lunch (literally) in exchange for a credit card application during my traditional stint in college over a decade ago. I’m glad they put a stop to those practices! I didn’t bite, but plenty of my peers did.

    • There was a picture floating around a couple of years ago with a table set up in a grocery store offering a free 2-liter of Pepsi with a new credit card. $250 in value is my minimum bonus to even consider a card these days.

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