I have an embarrassing confession to make. I’ve been paying a HEFTY annual fee for a credit card I don’t use. This goes against every bargain hunting, deal getting, frugal gene in my body! The reason I’ve kept it? Nostalgia. How crazy is that?!
My very first credit card (or charge card as this company calls it) was an American Express card and I’ve had it for over two decades. It’s always had an annual fee, but when I was just starting out, it was the only card I could get approved for. Years later when I started using it for business expenses at work, I upgraded to the Amex Gold Card at $150 per year. Steep, no doubt, but it was worth it because I reaped at least three times that in card benefits.
Fast forward several years and the usage, along with the ability to accrue rewards and take advantage of benefits has declined drastically. The primary cause is a change in career and a lessened need to use the card, any card, on business activities. Plus I have less expensive cards with comparable perks.
So this year when the $160 (an increase from the $150) annual fee rolled around, I couldn’t avoid acknowledging that I was wasting money. You’d think the decision to cancel would be easy, but it wasn’t! I even called American Express requesting a fee waiver since I hadn’t been using the card. I was incredibly disappointed when this strategy, one that works for me 90-95% of the time, didn’t. Though they offered to change me to their lower tiered Green Card for $95 a year, it didn’t solve the basic problem – paying for a card not being used. I declined that offer, but instead of going ahead and cancelling on the spot I told them I needed to think about it. What???
We Can Rationalize Anything
My rationale was that I needed time to mourn this loss. I’m canceling a card I’ve had for all of my adult life, after all. It feels so personal though I don’t know why. Goodness knows I’m just a number to them – a well treated number (never received anything other than excellent service), but still a number.
This angst ridden decision has caused much introspection. Could I be loath to cancel because I harbor some deep seated hunger for the “status” of the Gold Card? I’ve never thought of myself as being status hungry. I mean you’re talking about someone who squeezes the last bit of blood out of a sale item and then charges the remaining pennies with a credit card to get points. On the other hand, I’ve never been overly sentimental about such things, yet the idea of canceling this card actually made me feel sad. It’s confounding.
I thought having a few weeks before the bill came due to come to terms with this would help, but it hasn’t. I’ve even thought of contacting them again in the hopes that a different agent would grant the waiver. But to what end? I no-longer-use-the-card.
Why It’s Difficult To Get Rid of Something Even When We’re Not Using It
Which brings me to the main point of this post. It’s not about me whining about giving up a costly credit card (well, not only about that), but examining why it’s sometimes difficult to get rid of something that you’re paying for that you don’t need and/or don’t use.
I encourage us all to think about this in our own lives for a bit. Is there one big(ish) thing, or multiple small things, or features of something in your life that you’re paying money for that you no longer use? How much is it costing? How much would you save if you got rid of it? Why do you still have it? I never would have believed myself capable of blatantly wasting money like this, and feeling sad about the ultra-simple remedy.
There are many reasons we allow ourselves to literally continue to pay companies for nothing. My top five are:
This is where I’m placing my feelings of nostalgia about the American Express card. It feels like a loss in my heart, though being a habit resonates in my brain as the real truth. I got used to it. It was a given, something I always had and now it’s no longer needed. It happens all of the time.
Fear of Letting Go
Sometimes we become so comfortable with a thing that we’re (subconsciously) afraid to let it go. What if we NEED the thing down the road? What if we’re actually losing out by getting rid out it? In my case I actually spent a little time worrying if I could get approved again in the future if I wanted, which is stupid.
Calling it laziness is harsh, because sometimes it might be due more to avoidance of uncomfortable situations, like dealing with customer service. It can really be a pain in the butt. However, laziness is a culprit in play too. I’ve put things off because I just didn’t feel like doing it. That’s a silly reason to waste money.
Are you good at talking yourself into believing you still need the thing, or that it’s not costing that much money, or that you’re still deriving some benefit from it? Instead of cancelling the card immediately I spent time reviewing the benefits looking for a reason to keep it.
Lack of Awareness
This one is probably the easiest to fix, because once you realize money is being wasted you’re more than half way there. The trick is making sure it never gets buried. That’s one reason why I never set my credit card payments to auto pay or auto renew. It forces a bill review every month, which is a habit beneficial to everyone.
It never ceases to amaze me how even simple things can get complicated. Even my week long spending detox is turning out to be tougher than expected. How about you? Have you had this in your life? Is there something you can cut but it’s hard to do? Please share in the comments!