Love and Credit Cards

13 Mar

Squiddy and I decided to apply for a joint credit card together the other day. It makes sense – We’ve been together for several years now, are engaged, and a recent series of Household Disasters of Epic Proportions have really highlighted what a pain in the butt it is for us to try and keep track of ‘you paid for the exterminator last time, but I covered boarding the cats and the plumbing tools, so whose turn is it for groceries?’ Additionally, I’m just more interested in and used to dealing with our finances, whereas Squiddy would be happy to see the money magically disappear from her account when necessary and never have to think about it again.

So a shared credit card seems like an easy way to consolidate this stuff. Plus I have some firsthand experience with what a pain it is to not have a credit history, so we can go out and get ourselves one of those while we’re at it.

There are many things about credit cards and finances that are screwed up. For instance, the good old catch twenty-two of ‘you have no credit history, so we can’t trust you, first-time credit-card haver’. Personally, I would be happy to go through life sans debt and just pay for everything with money I actually have, but for some reason credit is so deeply ingrained in our society that I will actually have trouble renting a home without one. Qualifying to spend money you don’t have is proof of solvency, apparently.

Don’t get me wrong, when I finally got my personal one (through some seriously !!privilege!! methods, I might add, since I was rejected every time I tried to apply the old fashioned way), I could see right away how convenient it was to have one. I like not having to actually spend real money until my paycheck comes in. Fluctuations in bank account numbers make me sad. But still, debt. I don’t like getting too comfortable having it.

Despite what the last few paragraphs might have led you to believe, this post is not actually about how American finances are screwed up. It’s about drop-down menus.

Squiddy and I eventually decided on a Bank of America cashback card because yay getting some of the money you spend back again. I am not sure how these things make sense. It seems bizarre that there is free money lying around in the wild world of finances.

Anyway, you can add on a joint cardholder with equal privileges during the application, but you need to give some sort of explanation regarding your relationship to this person you want to share debt-potential with. Apparently BoA thinks you want to share a credit card with your:

Spouse

Mother

Father

Brother

Sister

Aunt

Uncle

Mother-in-Law

Father-in-Law

Brother-in-Law

Sister-in-Law

Friend

Or my favorite: Other.

So my Other and I filled out our credit card application and are waiting to find out if we’re bankable enough to get one. Apparently BoA thinks you are more likely to want to get your debt on with your Sister-in-Law (is this actually a thing people do?) or BFF than your girlfriend/boyfriend/fiancee/domestic partner.

I don’t mean to hate on BoA here specifically – this is a wide-spread problem I have whenever I’m forced to engage with bureaucracy these days. On most forms, you’re either single or married in Relationshipland. On my taxes, I’m single. On the forms to set up my 401K, still a swinging bachelor, apparently – even as I fill in Squiddy as my beneficiary, should I bite the dust. This gets particularly funny when I have to check the single box on a form that is part of the intricate legal meshwork gay couples construct to mimic the rights and responsibilities of marriage.

If you’re navigating the perils of the drop-down menu and you’ve left Relationshipland, you usually get to be widowed or divorced, sometimes even separated – that’s a bit more granularity on the not-together-anymore end than on the together-but-not-married end. This seems bizarre to me, even approaching the matter from a totally hetrosexual, conventional-lifestyle-assuming perspective.

Okay, so Squiddy and I can’t get married in our state (yet!) and this makes us Sad and is Legally Inconvenient. But on the one hand, civil unions are totally a state two people can be in that has legal standing. Why is there no button for this thing that legally exists?

And on the other end, friend is hardly a heavily legislated status – wouldn’t you think plenty of straight couples who aren’t yet ready for that walk down the aisle still might want to share a credit card? That seems like a way more likely scenario to me than wanting to go halvsies on your finances with one of your bros. So why is there only Other for all the twenty-somethings who have been living together for three years and want to pay the electric bill more conveniently?

Mysteries piled upon mysteries.

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