Blogger Q&A: My first credit card

By Emma Lunn

That first credit card can be a formative experience. For some, it's an excuse to spend with abandon. For others, it's an opportunity to learn to how to handle debt responsibly.

We asked two personal finance bloggers to share their (very different) experiences with their first credit cards -- and the lessons they learned from them.

A late start: Ashley Lennon from "Skint In The City"

Lennon's blog helps readers live a stylish life on a shoestring budget. She got her first credit card at age 26.

ashley-lennon

Ashley Lennon
Skint in the City

"I think the reason I left it so late was that my parents never used credit cards - I still don't know if they have one - and I'd been brought up seeing things paid for by cash or cheque," Lennon says.

Lennon was happy to live that way, too, making purchases with a debit card once she started earning a salary. The desire to book travel more easily was what changed her credit-less lifestyle. Her first credit card purchase? Flights to Barcelona.

"I'd lived there previously for a couple of years and this was a return trip to see friends," Lennon says. "Before getting my credit card at 26, I'd always had to get friends to book my flights on theirs, then give them the money."

That doesn't mean Lennon is racking up huge debt balances.

"My relationship with credit cards has always been good -- touch wood," she says. "To this day I hardly buy anything on credit. It all goes on the debit card -- must be the canny Scot in me."

A lesson learned: Piper Terrett from "The Essex Life"

Blogger and author of "The Frugal Life (How to Spend Less and Live More)," Terrett also wrote a popular blog for MSN money called "The Frugal Life." She now pens her own blog about living an affordable, sustainable lifestyle.

Her life wasn't always so sustainable, however. Terrett was 18 and a university student when she got her first credit card.

piper-terrett

Piper Terrett
The Essex Life
Photo credit Paul Robins
"I got the card because if I took it out, I got £20 credited to my account for free. I didn't intend to use it, but thought £20 would come in handy," Terrett says.

Terrett didn't use the card for three years, until she ran out of money while travelling.

"I was on holiday in America after my graduation staying with a friend and stupidly spent all my holiday money before realising that I hadn't put aside the money I needed to get a coach ticket back to the airport," she says. "So I ended up using my credit card for the first time."

Although Terrett's relationship with credit got off to a good start (she says she paid the balance off as soon as she got the bill), her good habits didn't last. She soon realised that she didn't have to pay off the balance right away and could coast along by paying only the minimums until she could afford the rest.

"A few years later when I'd split with my boyfriend at the time and had to move into more expensive accommodation with a friend, I ended up buying new clothes to cheer myself up and paying for them with the card," Terret says. "The debt soon racked up and I wasn't earning enough to pay it off. Eventually I had to do some extra freelance work to pay it off. I was lucky I got the work."

Terrett says her first credit card experience taught her that, although it was useful to have a card for emergencies, credit makes it easy to buy things you can't afford. While she'd never go completely credit-less, Terret says she's learned much about self-control.

"I wouldn't like to be without a credit card -- it's useful to be able to borrow that money when you need it," she says. "But I think that the £20 I thought I'd cleverly got by taking out the card in the first place actually cost me a lot more money in the long run."

See related: Young money bloggers share the lessons they've learned, Personal finance bloggers confess their biggest money mistakes

Published: 16 August 2012