Are Credit Cards to Blame?

The debate over credit cards and the role that they play, if any, in many people’s financial lives is at times heated but always interesting. Even Dave Ramsey, who is known for advocating personal responsibility for all financial decisions, seems to take the easy way out and place some of the blame on credit cards and credit card companies rather than solely on the individual. Dave Ramsey’s stance on credit cards is fairly straightforward: get rid of them!

Is the “Dave Ramsey Way” the best way to view credit cards or is it just a cop out that’s heavy on blame and light on getting to the root of the matter which is taking responsibility for the decisions that one makes?

Imagine with me for a moment that you are in a restaurant and you overhear the following conversation:

The Things You Overhear…

Person A: “You wouldn’t believe what happened to me at the mall the other day!”

Person B: “Do tell!”

Person A: “So, I was shopping at my favorite store and I saw this new shirt that I just had to have but I knew that I couldn’t afford it so I placed it back on the rack and started to walk out the door buuut wouldn’t you know it my credit card hopped out of my pocketbook, grabbed the shirt back off the rack, carried it over to the register, swiped itself to pay for the shirt, and then carried the shirt right back over to me and hopped back in my pocketbook! I mean, what was I supposed to do?! I knew that I still couldn’t afford it but it’s not like its my fault. It was all totally out of my control. It’s the credit cards fault and not mine if I keep racking up debt and go bankrupt.”

Person B: “Umm, right, yeah of course! The same thing happens to me all the time! It’s not my fault I spend more than I have in the bank – it’s those evil credit cards! By the way, want dessert? – I think my fork is forcing me to eat some more calories – that’s not my fault either by the way! It’s my forks fault!”

You are already leaning over almost bent over backwards in your chair to hear their conversation so you decide that you just can’t resist interjecting yourself into their conversation so you turn around and say to them….

Time to Jump in and Say…

What would YOU say in this situation? (Yes, I know that most of us would just mind our own business and not bother butting in to say anything at all BUT assuming that you did find yourself in their conversation what would you say to them?)

Are credit cards to blame when someone goes into credit card debt or into bankruptcy?

Are people 100% responsible for the decisions that they make and the situations they find themselves in?

In situations of credit card debt is potentially the responsibility split between credit cards and people (i.e. 60% the individual’s fault and 40% the credit card’s fault, etc.)?

Is it even possible to allocate “blame” or “responsibility” to a credit card or some other inanimate object (i.e. is the “fork and overeating” analogy a good one)?

If you do believe that some or all of the blame lies with credit cards or credit card companies then do you believe it is best to A) Leave it up to the individual to decide what kind of product they should or should not choose to use or B) Leave it up to the government to legislate via the CARD Act and other regulations what can and cannot be made available to the public (i.e. A = More choice/leave it up to the consumer or B = Less choice/leave it up to the government to protect consumers)?

About the Author: Joel is a Certified Financial Planner™ and the founder of the website Credit Card Chaser. One of his most recent undertakings includes a website for researching car insurance companies. His view on credit cards is to pay off all credit card debt, use credit cards for their cash back/rewards, and pay off the balance in full each month to make credit cards work for you and not against you. Is he biased because he researches credit card offers all day long or does his belief in personal responsibility actually hold water? Leave a comment below to let everyone know what YOU think!

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Last Edited: February 16, 2011 @ 11:16 pm