I was proud of myself cutting up my credit card in Dubai, but the realtor in Canada said I should get a credit card and build up my credit history.
“Pay with the credit card even for a cup of coffee and pay off the balance regularly. The bank wants to see how you handle money,” he said, adding that getting a mortgage for a house would then be much easier.
I was getting chills down my spine thinking about how I should be running wild through the malls with the credit card in hand buying up stuff, to get a loan from my bank.
Financial experts warn never to fall into the credit card trap and get tempted into retail therapy to feel good. They reel off figures about how many North Americans are deep into debt, but here I was being told to get in and out of debt to be able to buy a home.
In Canada there is a Credit Counselling Society and it has a 1-855 toll free number to call if you are wallowing in unmanageable debt, just like a guy who is addicted to gambling and horse races. Americans up North, last year paid $113 billion (Dh416 billion) in credit card interest to banks, according to reports.
It was, however, heartening to read about a Filipina in Dubai who had come out of hiding and managed to get out of credit card debt of Dh1.7 million by taking the unusual step of approaching the bank and asking it for help, as advised by a lawyer. The lawyer talked the bank out of forgoing the interest and finance charges that had ballooned up.
I remember how easy it was to get a credit card in Dubai; sales guys would hand out flyers outside my workplace that advertised credit cards and loans of easy cash to the tune of three times my salary.
Getting a credit card in Canada without a local job was impossible and the only way I could get one was by putting down a lot of my own money and on keeping the spending to that limit. Even after giving the bank my money, I was asked a host of questions by the bank executive about where I was all these years and why I needed the card.
I told her about how on my last visit I tried to desperately hire a car and drive around and see the beautiful countryside, without any success, as no car hire agency would accept cash. I could not fudge the rules by letting my wife, who had a credit card, hire the car and I drive, but was warned against doing that because of insurance issues in case of an accident.
Then my wife unequivocally said that she was not going to climb up and down the stairs, after looking at a couple of town houses. The lovely homes looked cosy and I knew what my wife meant, as I had watched horror movies and seen people slowly tumbling down the stairs after a murder attack, and then we saw unfinished basements in some of the homes.
“It will cost you just $15,000 (Dh55,000) to do up the basement and you can rent it out and let the tenant pay off the mortgage,” said the realtor cheerfully.
I reminded him my wife and I are high-strung and anyone creaking around the house in the dead of the silent winters on the wooden flooring would send us both screeching for help and driving the 911 emergency crew crazy.
Mahmood Saberi is a storyteller and blogger based in Bengaluru, India. Twitter: @mahmood_saberi