Dispatches, thoughts, and miscellanea from writer Jon Konrath

One down, one to go

I paid off a credit card today. This is sort of my new hobby, and an expensive one, but I’m down to just one credit card that has a balance, and I’m done. (Well, except for my land mortgage, and a student loan that will probably outlive me by 50 years.)

This made me think of a really good idea that either will never get implemented, or that someone else will “think of” years from now, and I will spend a decade saying “I thought of that first!” The idea is a reverse credit card statement. Imagine that every time you buy something on your credit card, the name/date/details are put in a last-in/first-out queue. Each month, when you make a payment, your statement shows that month’s finance charge you paid off, and then shows all of the items at the top of the queue that were “removed” by this payment. So like if you had a Visa that was full of crap from the last ten years, and you were feverishly paying off the balance, you might get a statement that said something like “you paid this month’s 68.11 finance charge, plus you paid off a pair of movie tickets from 1998, and a bunch of books you bought at Barnes and Noble from back then.” (Fractional percentages would be used to remove part of something at the top of the queue if it’s greater in size than the payment. i.e. “you paid off 24% of that stereo you bought in 2000.”) I’m sure there is some way you could implement this with a combination of e-statements and online bill payer, but I think it would be interesting if card companies did this so you could really see what you were “paying off” each month, and just how long crap stays on your card.

I was thinking about this because earlier this year, I paid off (and then cut in half) my Chase card. I got the card in 1992, when I was desperately scrambling to pay for a summer session of classes. It’s actually been paid off and run up again a few times, so the classes I took that inspired stories in Summer Rain wouldn’t be on there, but I was hesitant to shred this card, because it was my oldest one, and it had the “member since” in the bottom corner. Whatever marketer thought of that, it almost worked. But since this was one of those toy credit cards with a low limit, high APR, and no features other than the ability to buy a discounted made in China clock-radio for only $19.99 by collecting a bunch of stamps, I got rid of it. I thought maybe when I called to cancel, the member since date would possibly get me some leverage in the negotiation, but it didn’t. Oh well.

Not much else is going on except I have to find a TV show to watch. I mean, I have to find a TV show that has DVDs on NetFlix. We’ve been on this kick of watching old TV serieses (seriii?) that neither of us really watched back when they were on, that might be interesting now. We started with Northern Exposure, after the Alaska trip, and we also watched the first two seasons of Nip/Tuck (actually, that may have been first.) Now we have three episodes left on Six Feet Under, and I need to find something else, since Sarah picked the last few and now it’s my turn. The concept has worked pretty good; we now watch almost no network TV, just an episode or two off of DVD, with no commercials and no need to schedule your life around a TV show. It’s cheaper than buying a set of DVDs, and it’s also good when you find out the show’s a dud a few episodes in. (We tried the Larry David show, but I couldn’t really get into it.) I should probably also state that we’re into non-genre-specific drama things. The sitcom is dead, and scifi is iffy. I have no real interest in cartoons, and archived reality shows or whatever aren’t that great. So, who knows. I’d step through the second season of Lost, if it wasn’t such a fake-cliffhangery sort of thing with every episode.

OK. Christ, I can’t believe how early it’s getting dark now. Al Gore should do a movie about that next.