Talking Drums

The West African News Magazine

Good Credit - If - If You Play Your Cards Right

A Touch of Nokoko by Kofi Akumanyi

My friend Simon really believes in them - I mean cards. The day he revealed the contents of his bulging wallet which throughout the years I had known him, believed to be often depleted of money, I was quite surprised. But then it should have occurred to me earlier that he was one of those people who have shunned orthodox currency and adopted the ubiquitous square plastic money which allows one to buy things without ever handling hard cash-all on credit, of course.

It's all a far cry from the days he desperately wants to forget about. I quite remember one day, seven years ago when Simon, a fresh graduate of the University of Ghana without a brass farthing to his name, was struggling to acquire the basic household necessities to start life. His bank manager would not even discuss a loan simply because he had no security. If that bank manager could see him now... Visa, Barclaycard, Diners… mortgage loans, and other consumer credit facilities being literally pushed down his pocket.

The fact is these days you don't have to go on bended knees to your bank manager (at least, in the Western Industrialised countries) in order to borrow money, and you needn't just be lent money when you're broke.

According to the experts, if you use credit wisely you can even improve your finances. It can be an easy way to make money, but it's also an easy way to land yourself in financial trouble.

The best type of credit deal for you, depends entirely on your personal circumstances - why you need that money, how much you want to borrow, how long for, how much you earn, etc.

But the experts also sound a note of caution "...think carefully before entering into any credit agreement. Never sign a blank form - you could be signing your life away".

Yes, indeed, you could very well be signing not only your life but that of your family away if you become hooked on to these apparently cheap credit facilities as my friend Simon found out to his debit. He phoned me not too long ago to join him for lunch at one of London's fancy restaurants in the West End. My only conclusion was that he might have had a windfall because I recently had to come to his rescue to enable him to fulfil certain pressing financial obligations. As I usually do not wave away good offers, I showed up promptly at the appointment time and place and raised the issue at the beginning of the sumptuous four course meal.

"Simon, I hate to say this, but I'll definitely feel guilty when the bill is presented. Couldn't you have chosen a less expensive place?" I asked, savouring the delicious shrimp cocktails which could cost quite a bit. "Not to worry, today is my birthday!" he said and waved to the waitress to replenish the glasses with more wine.

"Congratulations! However, it still doesn't give you the licence to hang yourself with a string of bills."

"Relax and enjoy yourself because the bill will be taken care of."

"By whom?"

"By my bank," he said, cutting into a huge medium-rare cooked steak. "You don't mean you've gone to borrow money for this meal?"

"That's the general idea, except that there's no physical money involved. It's all a question of cards."


"In this society if you play your cards well you can live like a King,' said Simon. He then opened his wallet and brought out about six credit and cheque cards.

"You surely have all the aces in your hand. But I quite remember the problems of a chap called Robert Champ who not long ago appeared in court for running a debt of £68,000,"

I said. "What happened?"

"American Express did not find his spending habit, sex, gambling and booze, entertaining at all," I pointed out. The dessert had arrived, the waitress was smiling from ear to ear, obviously expecting a large tip at the end of the lunch.

"It's a game millions of people are playing these days. The banks are only too pleased to offer them so why should I be a drop-out?" he asked me. I couldn't answer this one.

"Well," I said tasting the nice Irish coffee, "if everybody is joining the bandwagon why shouldn't you?"

The bill came on a silver platter and left with a big cheque and a large tip to match the mood. I was impressed.

On leaving the restaurant, I asked him why no bank has offered me credit cards after my applications.

"Simple; you're not credit worthy!"

talking drums 1984-09-10 one year covering a region in turmoil