$0.3 million? Just charge it to my credit cards!
Yesterday, The Wall Street Journal introduced its readers to Pete D’Arruda, a man who must give his tailor nightmares. How can his suits look good when he’s carrying a wallet containing 25 different MasterCard and Visa credit cards? Still, at least he doesn’t have to worry about how to pay his clothing bills; he has more than $300,000 in available credit on those cards.
Credit scores boosted by credit cards
Mr. D’Arruda writes and consults on personal-finance matters, and sees his plastic project as an experiment. As a scientist, he may have more in common with Victor Frankenstein than Stephen Hawking, but he’s made some interesting discoveries.
One of these concerns credit scores. In the standard FICO scoring system, the amount you owe, especially as a proportion of the amount of credit you have available, is an important factor. Indeed, this “credit utilization ratio” can account for up to 30 percent of your total credit score.
The fact that D’Arruda uses only 10-25 percent of his available credit (Hang on. That’s $30,000-$75,000!) means that his ratio is well within acceptable limits, and this may have helped him achieve a stellar score, which he claims is in the 810-815 range. However, to have got there he must also have:
- Maintained a spotless record of prompt payments
- Had his credit for some time
- Acquired some new credit relatively recently
- Kept a good mix of different forms of credit (mortgage, auto loans, personal loans, credit cards and so on)
Credit card rewards and perks
D’Arruda says that he pays for virtually all his purchases using plastic. And, as a result, he quickly builds up worthwhile credit card rewards. This Thanksgiving, the Journal reports, he plans to cash in enough points from his Disney-branded Chase card to cover a Disney cruise for his family. Some–though not necessarily your blogger–would see that as sufficient reward for repeatedly presenting a card emblazoned with a picture of Buzz Lightyear.
Meanwhile, when he flies to meet his cruise ship, D’Arruda can use one of his prestige credit cards that offer airport lounge access to ease a wearisome journey. These tend to come with hefty annual fees, but he recently saved himself $495 by getting a card issuer to waive the charge because his credit score was so high. You might not be that lucky, but it’s worth remembering that credit card companies are often responsive to negotiations.
Credit card use best in moderation
Before becoming too envious of D’Arruda’s lifestyle, it’s worth remembering his administrative burden. Most of us struggle to manage two or three cards, what with tracking charges, reconciling statements and scheduling payments. Would we really want to do that for 25?
To be fair, Mr D’Arruda isn’t advocating that we should try. He’s conducting an experiment. What his experience may suggest is that responsible credit card use can enhance people’s lifestyles, even when it’s practiced on a much smaller scale than his.
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