We love our credit cards. These little rectangles of plastic (or, increasingly, metal) were originally used mostly for travel and entertainment. We still use them for those purposes, of course, and certainly for shopping, as well as for cash advances and to earn rebates or airline miles. These days, they have also become common for even the smallest purchases — cab fare, parking meter, a Caramel Cocoa Cluster Frappuccino. It is hard to imagine life without credit cards.
In recent years, Apple Pay and other mobile payment options have become increasingly popular, and industry sources project that cell phones will become the next likely payment device. Further in the future, implanted microchips could supplant both credit cards and mobile payment options. For now, though, credit card use is growing.
In the first quarter of 2018, new credit card accounts openings rose 4% from the same period last year. And while only about a third of adults between the ages of 18 and 29 carry credit cards, the credit reporting service Experian reported that “the tide is turning…” — and millennial credit card balances have grown 28% since 2011. Revolving consumer credit debt, which is comprised mostly of credit card debt, but excludes loans with fixed repayments and charge card debt, stood at $1.04 trillion in 2017.
Though many Americans use their credit cards for nearly all of their purchases, there are still some items most people do not realize can be purchased with plastic. Some examples include horses, gold bullion, Girl Scout cookies, and more. With a credit card these days, almost anything is possible.
1. $1 coins
Buying cash on credit sounds like the kind of thing high-flying international financiers do, but it is actually within reach of anyone with plastic. The U.S. Mint has produced dollar coins off and on since 1794, including a series dedicated to U.S. presidents. The public never really embraced the idea of metallic bucks in place of paper money, and the Mint stopped making the presidential dollars for circulation in 2011 (minting of the earlier Susan B. Anthony dollar coin ceased in 1999). The U.S. mint continued making the presidential dollars as collectors’ items, though, along with a series of coins, produced since 2009, honoring Native Americans. The collectors’ coins are sometimes called “gold” for their color, but are actually an alloy of manganese and brass. Though the coins are not meant to be spent in the normal fashion, all are legal tender. The only catch is that they can cost as much as $1.52 apiece, when you factor in shipping costs.
2. An ark with real animals
You can buy this animal-populated craft with a credit card, but you will not get to keep it. The organization that offers if for sale, Heifer International (www.heifer.org), gives donors the chance to buy farm animals, trees and plants, cookstoves, irrigation pumps, and more for people living in poverty in rural areas around the world. The ark is not an actual Noah-style hand-hewn gopher-wood Biblical ark. It is more of a virtual ark. But it is well-stocked — if not with two of every animal on earth, then at least with two water buffalo, two cows, two sheep, two goats, and an unspecified number of bees, chickens, rabbits, and more. All this will add $5,000 to your credit card bill, but it is enough, says the organization, to provide an entire community with milk, eggs, honey, and wool, as well as some income through the sale of surplus products.
3. A bank account
Here is a way to get cash on credit that does not involve commemorative coins. Some banks — among them Santander and Wells Fargo — allow new customers to fund their initial deposit with a credit card. The amount accepted in this manner varies from bank to bank.
Numerous suppliers will pack and ship these little buzzing insects to you. Georgia-based Beekeeping USA, for instance, can ship an Italian Bee starter package to 31 different states for $110 (at current sale price). This includes a wood screen box, 16 ounces of sugar water (bee food), and approximately three pounds of assorted nurse bees, forager bees, guard bees, and drone bees, plus a queen bee in a queen cage.
5. College tuition
The cost of a higher education is a major expenditure in many households, and some colleges and universities allow paying fees by credit card — for those with a high enough credit limit, of course. A study three years ago by CreditCards.com surveyed 300 U.S. private, public, and community colleges, and found that 260 accepted credit cards for tuition payments. Almost all, however, add a convenience fee, as high as 2.99%, to the amount charged — and of course there are additional interest charges to the card provider in case the balance is not paid off all at once.