What’s the weirdest thing you ever charged?

th-1The folks at CardRatings.com recently commissioned a survey about offbeat credit card purchases. Some 57 percent of those surveyed copped to a bit of buyer’s remorse, i.e., “What was I thinking?”

“Adult entertainment” was the top culprit, with 6.7 percent admitting to have purchased temporary jollies. Men are “about four times more likely than women to use a credit card for this purpose,” according to the CardRatings blog post.  

You don’t say.

Plastic + nekkid lady bits/man meat + alcohol too often = many months of payback. Hope the view was worth it. (For a while I struggled to avoid linking “plastic” as in cards with “plastic” as in augmented lady bits. As you can see, I failed.)

Obviously I can’t resist having a bit of fun with this info, but the underpinnings are deadly serious. Richard Barrington, the author of the CardRatings.com post, notes that credit card balances have been rising for several years now. Currently we owe a collective $857 billion, and pay as much as $110 billion each year in interest.

The moral: Stop whipping out the, uh, plastic at the strip clubs. And elsewhere.

Cars, college and coffins

Close behind nudie reviews was “scalped event tickets,” with 6 percent of the populace slapping their own foreheads over having spent so much to attend a sold-out concert or game. It isn’t just the ticket markup, but also the reseller fee and, maybe, credit card interest if you can’t pay the bill in full at the end of the month. (But it was the PLAYOFFS….!)

Among the other purchases marked by intense feelings of retroactive-WTF:

Automobiles. Fully 5 percent of respondents say they paid for their wheels with plastic. My guess is that we’re talking used cars, and that the dealership really saw these numbskulls coming. I could see doing this if you had an awesome rewards card program and had enough money saved up for the vehicle to pay the credit card bill when it came due. If not, I second Barrington when he says that the average four-year auto loan rate is about 4.4 percent, “just over one-third of the typical credit card rate.”

College tuition. Not a bad idea, actually, if there’s no fee attached for paying with plastic – and if you can pay the freight from savings. The former might cancel out any rewards points you’d accrue. The latter is just ludicrous, since student loan interest rates are typically lower than credit card rates. Nevertheless, 4.7 percent said they’d charged their classes.

Funeral. Two percent of respondents admitted to paying by card. This isn’t a slam at the bereaved, Barrington notes, but at the deceased: “A funeral is something everyone should provide for as they get older. Funeral homes routinely make it very easy to set up a burial trust.”

I paid to get single

Tattoos. Some 3.3 percent swiped a card for body art. Not to be a buzzkiller, but what you consider your one true love – be it death metal or some gal named Yolanda – may not actually stand the test of time. Or you may find out no one’s anxious to hire someone with “BORN TO LOSE” on his or her bicep. The good news: The places that remove tattoos probably take plastic, too.

Wedding. Some 2.6 percent of those surveyed walked down the aisle with the potential for debt hanging over their heads. Mazel tov! You think those tuxes rent themselves? Bonus points to those whose beloveds insisted on pre-nuptial visits to the laser tattoo removal joint.

Bail. Another 2 percent used plastic to avoid the pokey. Nice. No indication on whether they wound up there after open bar at a wedding or a disagreement with a tattoo artist. (“That’s Yolanda with one ‘L,’ you moron! I want my money back!”)

I can’t say I’ve ever bought anything really weird with credit. The most expensive thing I ever did go into debt for was my divorce, which took a couple of years to pay in full. Best money I ever spent.

Readers: Have you ever really regretted something you bought with plastic? And what’s the weirdest thing you ever financed?

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  1. I actually did finance a car on a credit card one time. However … it was a reasoned decision.

    1 – It was a used car, so about $8k
    2 – I had just gotten a new 0% interest for the 1st 12 months card.
    3 – It was an airline rewards card and I was living 2000 miles from home.
    4 – I used less than half the available credit on the card.

    I divided the $8k into 10 payments (giving myself a couple of months of wiggle room) and paid it off over those 10 months. And got 2 free flights home to see my family in the meanwhile.

    All in all it was a win for everyone.

  2. OH, and my guy paid for 90% of his college degree on credit cards – shuffling and balance transferring between various 0% cards over a 3 year period. (In all fairness he went back to school as an older adult and has a very well established credit history at that time.) He paid off the whole thing in 4.5 years w/ no interest and no student loans.

  3. When I was about to file for bankruptcy (looong story involving now-ex-husband) my attorney advised that I buy something newer than the 18-year-old POS I was driving. I scraped up a downpayment, but my credit got me a 26% interest rate . . . SO, once the dust of the bankruptcy and divorce had settled, I got a card with a 22% rate and a max balance of just over what I owed on the car. I paid off the car with the card, paid off the card, and now (15 years later) am the proud owner of an excellent credit rating.

    Sometimes ya gotta do what ya gotta do!

  4. I am a big fan of credit cards and all their benefits. I paid for DD1’s tuition every semester via credit card to reap the handsome rewards. Now schools have become “wise” OR “greedy” and charge a crazy amount of money in the form of a “fee” for the privledge. As for crazy things charged…DW had a “dear friend” who was having financial problems and was on the verge of BK. On the advice of her attorney she got a CC and had breast augmentation AND then 3 months later went BK …leaving the CC company holding the bag….TRUE STORY!

  5. Hah, I couldn’t think of anything “crazy” because I’ve always charged anything I could once I had my 1st CC and paid off the balance:

    1. College tuition
    2. The down payment on the car I financed (and paid off in 3/5 the expected time to cut down on the interest)
    3. Groceries, gas, utilities. I’d charge the mortgage & HOA if the CC rewards were greater than the fee.
    4. Our wedding: absolutely! We did a round of new CCs to get the bonuses, which I shared on the blog, and charged everything. And of course paid it all off in the same week.
    5. Other CC debt: I took on all my parents’ CC via balance transfers when they were 0% interest and fee-free for 12 months and paid off about $60K over a couple years.
    6. Gift cards. Discounted AND rewards? Yes please.

    It gets so that I’m a bit surprised when I can’t charge something. I had to write a check for our photographer, Mom’s funeral, and the tailor. The rewards were how I funded my own personal purchases like books and gifts, since I couldn’t afford both needs AND wants back then 🙂 And of course, it’s all fun and games until someone carries a balance so that’s a huge No in this household.

    • Donna Freedman

      Until you mentioned your wedding, I’d forgotten that both Abby and I took out United Airlines credit cards during her long engagement. The company started us off with a bunch of miles for free and then we charged everything we could. The result: two free tickets for their honeymoon in Orlando.
      I still charge everything I can, from groceries to Groupons. That’s how I paid for my holiday gifts and for some treats during my trip to Phoenix: I cashed in for gift cards.
      That kind of behavior is crazy only if you carry a balance. The interest would likely outweigh any points benefits.
      Thanks for reading, and for leaving a comment.

  6. I look at my one credit card as a necessary evil and only ever use it for on line purchases that need fraud protection.It is also useful for foreign currency purchases much more common in Europe than in the States. Very occasionally for a large purchase I use it to gain some time for myself. I don’t ever carry one around, preferring cash or a debit card. My credit stays at home in a drawer. I never carry a balance and generally have a healthy and natural dislike for credit cards. They are not my friends!!!

  7. My brother died in 2006 with no life insurance, no will, no money, and 4 kids. I used my credit card to pay for funeral expenses. At that point I drew a line in the sand and said NEVER AGAIN to credit cards and debt of any kind. It was a lesson I hope nobody else has to go through, but I have stuck to my guns. Took me years to pay everything off. ( both my debts and his expenses ).

  8. Cathy in NJ

    I used my credit card to pay for my wedding: reception, cake, flowers, photographer. The number of guests was under 40 people, only two attendants, no band so this could work. I got a family photographer to arrive at the end of ceremony take some posed photos and then family photos 1.5 hrs total. Pictures were great and cost 1/10th of the whole day extravaganza wedding photographers wanted. Everything was perfect and from the money I saved up specifically for the wedding costs the bills were paid in full within 2 days.

  9. I’m pretty boring when it comes to using my cc for odd things. I did charge dental surgery to my credit card, so I could get the rewards points (cash back). But the other dentist that I spent a ton of money at, had a cash discount policy, so I hit up the ATM before I went in – it saved me a significant amount of money!

    My college roommate used cash advance checks from her credit card to pay rent a few months when I lived with her. And bought groceries on her credit card – with the plan to pay it back when her next student loan came in. Not sure if she did end up paying off the card when the money came in, or not!

    My first experience with a credit card was in college – my friends and I wanted to go to a concert, and wanted to buy tickets over the phone – but you needed a credit card! Only one of our little group *had* a card – so she agreed to charge the 5 tickets on her card – and the moment she had confirmation that the tickets were purchased, we all forked over the cash to pay her back. She then *immediately* went to the bank and paid the balance – not even waiting for a bill!

  10. I’m a bit late to this but I’ll share the weirdest thing I ever charged anyway. It’s not really a weird purchase, just a weird circumstance. In September of 2001 I was vacationing with two friends in New York and we were scheduled to leave on the 11th. Naturally there was no flying out of NYC and a little while later that morning there was no flying out of anywhere. I was 20 years old and not old enough to rent a car.

    I called my dad and asked him what to do. We were young and terrified and stuck. My dad told me since I wasn’t old enough to rent a car, to find a car dealership and buy a car with the credit card I had that belonged to him and my mom. My friends and I managed to make it to a car dealership that was open and after showing the salesman my drivers license and the other credit cards I had and proving that it really was my name on the card and I wasn’t committing fraud I bought a 2000 Volkswagen Jetta.

    The card was an American Express card so I assume my father paid the bill in full when it came. He may have rolled it over onto another card or used home equity to pay for it. I’m not sure. What I do know is I drove that car up until 2012 when it was 12 years old and had 350,000 miles on it and I was 31.


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