More Maxed Out Credit Cards

I’m always sharing my experiences at the store with you, and by now you are probably thinking, “This frugal guy sure spends a lot of time in the store!” I assure you that’s not the case. Rather, when I am occasionally in stores, it seems like something usually happens to trigger a post topic. Tonight’s shopper with a maxed out credit card experience was such an occasion.

So there I was, standing in line at Office Depot with a buy one, get one free set of gift tag stickers and a buy one get one free sample of tissue paper (yes, it is time for teacher gifts at the kids’ school, and guess who didn’t have all the gift bag materials the night before?).

While waiting to buy $4.26 worth of Christmas goodies concealment supplies when the guy ahead of my swipes his card with no luck. He tosses the merchandise back at the store employee and storms out after being told the card was declined. I sort of apologized for him to the young girl, who calmly replied, “No big deal – it’s been happening a lot the last couple weeks. I guess people are just maxed out.” Indeed. And I wonder if we’ll have a problem paying for it, collectively, in the New Year.

The Frugal Roundup

What My Grandparents Taught Me About Money. Steve does a great job at looking back at his family history towards money and comparing it to his beliefs today. (@Brip Blap)

Do You Deserve to Spend? Is It OK to Splurge Even When We Don’t Have the Money? Learn how to fight the urge to splurge. Sometimes you just need to sacrifice things to get ahead financially. (@ Bible Money Matters)

How I Escaped the Rat Race. Check our Bob’s inspiring story about how he went from doing just something to doing something that he loves. (@ Christian Personal Finance)

Is Your Money Distinguishable From Your Parents? Trent shares a story about an old friend with a small income but a large wallet (his parents). (@ The Simple Dollar)

Best of the Rest


  1. He tosses the merchandise back at the store employee and storms out after being told the card was declined.

    In the story you tell, I see a connection between the lack of anger control and the lack of spending control. When we put more effort into making ourselves better people, we see financial rewards down the road.

    This is a sensitive point. Some become upset to hear it discussed. But I see it as an issue lurking in the background of many money discussions today.

    We’re just flat-out not as good as we once were. That’s one of the reasons why so many of us are so financially pressed. The positive side of the story is that, if we worked up the courage as a people to do something about the first issue, we would be rewarded in not only the obvious ways but in lots of others.


  2. Man, that’s sucks! I’ve been there done that. I tend to feel bad, left wishing I could help. What really got to me was the cliff hanger on this post. We will, in the end, be paying a whole lot of debt back, “collectively.” It makes me mad when I hear about how the government (TARP) has come to repayment term with financial institutions. Oh, I’m sorry, I meant to say that they are striiking deals. “Striking deals?” man, wish I could strike a deal for my student loans! “strike a deal” pshh. More like taking a loss at citizens expense. And top things of, we want doicial medicine, right now of all times? Expect high taxes, less of a standard of living.

    My two cents,
    Tony Tovar
    Paid Scribe

  3. Thanks for the link!

    It does seem that cards getting declined has been happening more lately while I’ve been at the store, although usually people don’t have the reaction that you’re talking about. usually people are embarrassed, shuffle through a stack of credit cards and say “try this one!”.

    I actually had this happen to me last week. I was at the grocery store and was trying to pay with my visa debit card. It was declined. It was pretty embarrassing as I’ve never had this happen before, and I couldn’t imagine how my account could be at a zero balance. Last I checked there had been quite a bit of money in there.

    It turned out that my card had been declined because my bank had sent me a new card with “new security features” and I hadn’t opened it yet. They just deactivated my old card on a set date. Thankfully I wasn’t on a trip or something when this happened.

    So, moral of the story – people don’t always get declined because they’re broke or maxed out. sometimes they’re like me and they just have a mix-up at the bank! 🙂

  4. Many banks have been cutting back the limits on their cards since the credit crisis. Often the new maximum is at or below the current credit balance. Sometimes the notice gets sorted with the bills or junk mail and people don’t notice until they use the card again.

    And then there’s simple theft. Our neighbors had a frustrating year 2 years ago when their credit card numbers were stolen 5 times. They eventually tracked down the thefts to a single vendor but in the meantime they were constantly getting declined cards, having to setup reoccurring payments over and over etc.

  5. I’ve seen this happen twice recently. Now that I think about it, it does seem to be happening more.

    The first time was at In-N-Out Burger. We were eating in, enjoying our “gourmet” $10 meal for two ;), and I decided I wanted another order of fries. I got in line behind a woman who was throwing a fit. First, when the cashier asked her “Debit or credit?” she looked completely lost. “Debit?” she guessed. The card was declined.

    Long story short, she stood there for several minutes arguing with the cashier about how the *cashier* needed to call the bank and how this had been happening a lot lately and how it *totally* wasn’t her fault. The cashier said “We don’t do that,” it got escalated to a manager, who pointed out that she had two cards in her hand and she should run it on the other one. “But that’s not *my* card,” she said. Eventually I guess she decided she wanted the burger more than she wanted to deal with this mess, so she charged it on her friend’s card. The total was about $4.

    I was behind someone in a line in a grocery store a few days ago when she tried three cards before one worked. Two of them were debit cards.

    I am left amazed by the number of people who have less than $10 in their checking account.


  6. I think the posta ahead of me show just how “fragile” a society we are.Debit or credit for a $4 burger? trying multiple cards to charge $150? sad just sad.And the misplaced anger and desperation is scary.I wish I could just pay those people’s bills but I know I know they need to learn the lesson.

  7. Thinking back to that feeling of having a maxxed out credit card sends chills up my spine – I really feel bad for people who live like that.

    Thanks for the mention and have a great weekend!

  8. I was in Macys and witnessed something similar but slightly different. After the customers Macys card was declined over and over the rep behind the counter gave him the phone so he can call the 1 800 number for the card.

    Apparently he only had $80 on the card and his purchase was $150. So what did he do? Well he didn’t storm out like the customer you witnessed. Instead he asks the person over the phone to see what can be done about extending his line, right there!

    I mean how over extended do people want to be these days? I understand the holidays encourage us to shop and buy but as a society we really need to change the way we buy and consume. Hence my recent following of your blog… =)