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Americans Went Credit Crazy in November—And That's a Good Thing

Is all that credit card debt really such a good idea?



Americans got back into borrowing in a big way in November, wildly exceeding forecasters' expectations. Consumer borrowing grew 10 percent, the largest monthly increase since 2001, pushing credit expansion back toward its pre-crash trend and giving more credence to hopes of a stronger economy in 2012.

The biggest increase came in student loans guaranteed by the government (more people go to school during economic downturns) and in auto loans, but the more interesting number involves credit-card spending.

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Uncredited: I Don't Have a Credit Card, and Maybe You Shouldn't Either On Credit Cards and Avoiding Debt in a Debt-Ridden Nation

As our nation comes to terms with the possibility of its credit score being downgraded, a reflection on never having credit debt in the first place.


Though America is a deeply religious country, as of late it seems like our normal sins—greed, pride, etc.—have taken a backseat to a more secular offense: debt. As everyone knows by now, Washington is in the throes of a major battle over debt: how much of it we have and how much more of it we’re willing to take on in the years to come. With Republicans standing obstinately against any plan that would ask corporations and the country’s richest citizens to pay more taxes, the United States is approaching a very real precipice: It’s unlikely that we’ll default on our loans, but it’s very possible that Standard & Poor’s, the world’s foremost credit rating agency, will downgrade America’s impeccable bond rating. Basically, we’re going to get bad credit, and, as any doting mother will tell you, that’s a disaster.

My mother is certainly worried about credit. I know because she tells me constantly. “There’s nobody your age like you, son,” she says whenever my finances come up. “What are you doing?”

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How to Accept Credit Card Payments on Your Phone: Just Swipe It

Having trouble getting your friends to pay you back that $20? Well now they can swipe a credit card on you phone. It's handy for small business too.


The credit card processing industry rakes in over $40 billion each year a few pennies per swipe. As plastic payments become more ubiquitous, especially with growing online sales, cash is starting to seem obsolete, sadly. Transaction services are safe bet for a growth sector. So it's no wonder a new entrant to the game is bringing the action to mobile phones. And this one might actually help the little guy.

Square is an smartphone app–and a little white square (pictured below)–that lets anyone who downloads the free app process credit card payments right on their phone. All you need is a U.S. bank account, a social security number, and a street address. Oh, and a smartphone with an internet connection. The company will send you the smallest credit card swipe machine you've ever seen. It inserts into the headphone jack of your phone, but you don't even need that to process payments, it's just way more fun. The Wired pop-up store was even giving them away to anyone who stopped by.

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