Our Problem With Credit Cards? They're Not Debit Cards.

Callahan’s millennials weigh in on Debitize, a service that promises to make a credit card act like a debit card.

 
 

In July, the New York Times ran a profile of Debitize, an online tool that promises “credit card perks without credit card debt.”

The idea: Consumers make purchases on their credit cards. Debitize deducts the purchase amount from an affiliated checking account each day — in a separate FDIC insured bank account that works with Debitize — and the tool pays the credit card bill automatically when it’s due.

The tool doesn't charge for its monthly payments, but it does charge $3 for a weekly payments option. Additionally, Debitize allows users to set a minimum balance on their checking account — if a withdrawal would make the account fall below that balance, the tool won’t transfer the money.

“Sit back and relax!” Debitize’s website reads. “We got you covered.”

Debitize’s value proposition is clear. According to a 2016 Bankrate survey, 33% of respondents between 18 and 29 years old own at least one credit card. That’s compared to 55% for ages 30 to 49; 62% for ages 50 to 64; and 68% for those 65 and older. And a LendEDU survey found that “millennials’ knowledge of credit cards is lacking” and “very concerning.”

In a world where relatively few millennials have credit cards, and even fewer know how they work, Debitize hopes to encourage credit card usage and alleviate concerns about debt while helping users build better credit scores (and rack-up rewards).

But does the tool sound like something a millennial might want? Here, nine Callahan employees under the age of 30 weigh in.

Mike Zaleski, Account Management Coordinator

I would not personally use a service like this. I already know how to manage a credit card. But my fiancé has never had one. She uses her debit card for everything and would absolutely find the service appealing. Something about seeing her bank account drain throughout the month helps her rein in spending.

I could see products and services like this being a hit, at least with the people I know. This service would be good for people to use during their transition years when they are most tempted to spend money they don’t have. Young adults who are just starting to take control of their finances could benefit from building their credit while still feeling the money leave their account on a regular basis to help curb spending.

Additionally, the service would be beneficial for anyone who uses a debit card for the reason of “I only spend money that I have” and has a stigma against credit cards.

In a perfect world, everyone would be mature enough to manage a credit card without running up a balance. But we don’t live in a perfect world and financial maturity tends to run in short supply in people's early 20s.

 

 

Suzanne McGann, Functional Analyst

I think this is a cool concept, especially for those individuals who are not as financially responsible as they could be. I’d be curious to take a closer look at the terms and agreements, specifically around data-sharing policies.

From an emotional standpoint, it fascinates me that millennial spending habits necessitate a tool like this to begin with. Three dollars a month to use Debitize over the span of my millennial life is $504. I would prefer to invest that money in a low-risk stock and let it grow for 14 years.

Erik Payne, Associate Editor

Seems like a good way for people to pay less attention to their money while introducing another security risk. And for only $3 a month.

Megan Parlett, Intern

I always make sure I have enough money in my account before making a purchase, so that aspect of the service wouldn’t be that interesting to me, but having my bill automatically paid each month would be convenient.

For people who are not as responsible managing their spending, it could prevent them from overspending, which seems like an important problem among people my age because they’re often unaware of how credit works. Although, this could be a moot point if their spending habits are such that the funds Debitize withdraws aren’t enough to pay the bill.

Johnny Grogan, Administrative Intern

I think it’s a good idea. Paying off the full balance every month is one of the biggest challenges with having a credit card. However, Debitize doesn’t limit spending on the credit card, which I think is a bigger issue.

The article mentions users can set a limit when it comes to paying off the balance, but users can still use the card and run-up interest fees.

 This seems to be a way to automate paying off a credit card, which could make people, especially millennials, more careless with their spending.

Lizzie Sebastian, Business Intelligence Analyst

This is an interesting idea. I never need to spend more than I have, and I have a good cash rewards credit card. For the past five years, I’ve pretty much only used my credit card and paid it off every two weeks.

The article also addresses another concern I would have: Debitize won’t overdraft a user's account. Sounds like an app I would recommend to friends.

The two things that come to my mind as a point of caution, though, are:

  1. I’m a bit wary of financial applications in general — I was a late adopter of my own credit union’s app. The article mentions safety, but I’d probably ask my financial institution for its thoughts before signing up.
  2. If we automate everything, we run the risk of not being mindful enough about our money. Payments for things like phone, gas, and electricity bills tend to slightly fluctuate. I appreciate that I have to look at my bill each month and realize what I’ve spent and what it does to my money pool. If that bill were to be paid without me having to look at it, I’d worry that I wouldn’t have a realistic knowledge of what I have available.

Liz Furman, Senior Industry Analyst

I think this is brilliant. I have a lot of friends that don’t have credit cards because they don’t trust themselves but want to build credit and get points. There’s definitely a place for Debitize in the market

Maya Neuman, Junior Analyst Intern

I like it. I just got my own credit card separate from my parents. It took me three months to put a single charge on it because I was afraid of using credit. Now, every time I make a charge, no matter how small or large, I pay it off from my checking as I go. Debitize would do it for me.

Ian Melhorn, Junior Industry Analyst

I think this is a good idea conceptually. I would do it if I’m financially stable and able to spend on my credit card and quickly pay it off to earn rewards for everyday spending that I’d use my debit card for otherwise.

But I think most people use a credit card because they don’t have the funds in their checking account at the time of purchase. Credit cards are used to satisfy impulse purchasing habits with the plan to pay it off later.

So, it depends on a person’s financial position whether this would be beneficial or not, and I think most people aren’t using a credit cards just for the rewards.

 

Sept. 11, 2017


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