MMMT: My First Credit Card was Laughable, Share Yours in the Comments

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Ticket Reselling Flop

Monday Morning Miles Talk is a regular series that has some smaller, more quirky ideas to kick off the work week.  These are essentially random ideas that I wanted to share with you.  Here are the 4 most recent topics.

If you would like to read even more articles in the series you can click HERE.

My First Credit Card was A Steaming Pile of Garbage

I thought we would have a little fun this Monday morning.  Let’s take a second to see how far we have come.  Think back to your first credit card, or at least your first rewards credit card.  Was it epically horrible?  Or did you luck out and have a decent starter card?  Mine was not the best.  Please share yours in the comments…and let’s have some fun.

My Very First Credit Card

I got my first credit card in college.  It was a student Visa card that earned 3% cash back on every purchase.  That sounds pretty great right?  That is what I thought.  They capped rewards at $100 per year and you didn’t get the pay out until the end of your cardmember year.

Not the best set up but better than most cards at the time. After books etc. I would be getting a $100 bonus each year.  I mean I only had to spend $3300 to get it.  That was right up there with the day I sold books back each semester.  You remember, the day where you got 10% of the price you paid for the book 3 months earlier and acted like you won the lottery.  Well until they said a new edition came out and they weren’t buying, which meant the tables of contents changed and nothing else.

With my new card in hand I use it for a $1000 purchase and eagerly await the $30 to show in my rewards balance.  But it never comes!  I come to find out you have to carry a balance to get the rewards…no joke!  They are targeting college kids and trying to get them to become used to carrying a balance.  Part of the reason I don’t feel bad doing what we do.

I started paying everything off less a dollar to get the rewards. I still came out ahead but that was a joke of a setup.  Share your first horror story below.

My Very First Travel Credit Card

After I hit my $100 bonus I picked up a Discover card, which I still have today.  I would put everything on that after I reached the max bonus on the 3% card.  The first true travel credit card I got was a Northwest Airlines credit card (Throw Back!).  I was one of those suckers who signed up for it when they handed out apps on the plane.

I want to say the bonus was 30,000 miles or something like that.  Enough for a roundtrip ticket and I thought I was a genius.  Well Delta purchased them a few years later and the card was product changed to a Flexperks Visa which ended up being a blessing in disguise. The Flexperks offers a solid program and a pretty decent return.

I then proceeded to put every charge on that card.  It is a decent card if you max out the redemptions (which I didn’t always do).  It usually netted me around 1-2 free flights every year.  I thought I was killing it.  Sounds so foolish, you live and learn!

That went on for a few years until I discovered the hobby and became a reading machine. I haven’t looked back since!


It is always fun to look back at where you used to be compared to where you are now.  It is also comical to think about how far off you were but thought you were so right.  At least for me that is the case.

Please share your stories of the first credit card you ever signed up for below.  Can be a story or great shame or victory.  I love hearing about this stuff!

Mark Ostermann
Mark Ostermann is a father, husband and miles/points fanatic. He left the corporate world after starting a family in order to be a stay at home dad. Mark is constantly looking at ways to save money and stay within budget while also taking awesome vacations with his family. When he isn't caring for his family or taking a weekend trip, Mark is working towards his goal of visiting every Major League Baseball ballpark.

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  1. My first card was from Bambergers in ’84—later bought/changed to Macy’s. It worked for a young (21 and 22 years old) newly married couple with no credit–we eventually let it die. I believe $500 was the limit. We had Sears for almost as long—but it was inactivated for non-use before we could keep it going.

    • Seems like store cards were where a lot of people started back in the day. I wonder if that is still true for 18-22 year olds today.

      • For me, “back in the day” was the early 70’s. VISA (BankAmeriCard) and MasterCard (Master Charge) were relatively new or just available regionally. Private brand store cards were the norm. I even remember my dad having a credit card issued by his favorite steakhouse.

        Today, enrolling in college at 18 seems to be automatic approval for VISA, Mastercard, Discover and AmEx.

        • I agree, colleges seem to have application booths everywhere; especially at sporting events. Where I grew up VISA was called NAC charge—my mother would call the store and tell them I was coming to use it and we would have no issues—with a carbon receipt.

          • I was in a machine rental place a few weeks ago and they still did a carbon copy of my CC…I about died.

  2. This is awesome. I had a Capital One VISA Platinum card at 18 with a $500 limit and no rewards. I still have it today but they won’t increase my credit limit.

  3. My first credit card was a TWA Getaway Card in 1974. Not only was it good for travel on Trans World, it was also accepted at some rental car and lodging companies. I was quite pleased. The ability to use the card for rental cars and lodging did not last very long but I did use it to charge numerous TWA tickets. When TWA was acquired by American, I held onto the card as a “remembrance souvenir.” Those were the days.

  4. I think my first was a Dayton’s Credit Card (Dayton’s was the Minnesota department store chain that gave birth to Target, which eventually consumed its parent). When I moved to Minneapolis in 1972 I quickly learned that the two things you needed to be a functioning resident was a MN driver’s license and a Dayton’s card. That was because you needed two forms of ID to cash a check in those days, and local credit cards were considered a primo form of ID (seriously!). I don’t think I ever once used it as a credit card, just as ID for cashing checks.

    Sometime in the mid-80’s I acquired a Chase Mastercard of some kind because I needed a card occasionally for things like hotel reservations. It was originally a no-fee, no-rewards card of some kind. Every couple of years it would be converted to something else. They added a $20 Annual Fee which I just paid because it was easier than figuring out how to cancel the damn thing. By the time I decided to investigate rewards cards in the early 2010s that old card had morphed into a Slate Plus Visa (one of the most useless cards imaginable, IMHO). So I made my first big credit card mistake and cancelled the card, not realizing that I could have product changed it to something useful and had a 25-year AAOA!

    • Ouch that hurts. So many people don’t know about product changes (outside of the hobby) that it is sad. Thanks for sharing 🙂

  5. NextCard! It was one of the first online banks. It had no rewards, no AF, and high interest; what every college student needs. I got an AmEx PRG a couple of months after.

  6. Macy’s – $200 limit – obtained when I was 16. Yes they allowed it somehow. Had this until it was cancelled for non-use a few years ago. Limit remained at $200!

  7. The GM Card. Back in 1994 in my college years. Got me into the trouble quickly… couple grands in debt with no job to payoff which caused me to stay away from credit cards for next 20 years.

  8. Mine was an old citi card product (about 15 years ago), I don’t even remember the branding but it was essentially a 1% cashback card. Signup bonus was a free T-shirt with no minimum spend required! (I signed up on my college campus!) haha.

  9. Had been a BoA customer since 1990. I applied for a credit card through them in 94 but was denied. Out of frustration I applied for a Sears card which I received no problem. Still have that card which was converted to the Citi Sears Mastercard at some point with the Thank You Points. Soon after I got the Sears card, BoA introduced a secured credit card so I signed up. Only had a $500 credit limit but after one year I was able to convert to an unsecured version. It’s been through several variations over the years and is currently a Travel Rewards. I also added the Premium Rewards last year.

  10. I had a Citibank card in 1989 that gave you 1 mile of air travel for every $15 spent. So for $750 spend you could fly 50 miles…..

  11. Probably showing my age, but mine was a Montgomery Ward credit card that had a $500 credit limit, but that was still more than enough to buy a new washer and dryer!

    My second card was a BankAmeriCard, which eventually became VISA.

  12. Boring Sears store card for me. Still have it and it gives me awesome offers but didn’t do much back then. First true credit card was a 1% cashback Providian Visa I think. ‍♂️

  13. Mine was a Barclaycard, as in a card that was actually called a Barclaycard. I grew up in the UK and that was the standard credit card from Barclays Bank. No rewards and no annual fee – just a 500 GBP credit limit when I was 18.

    Unfortunately I didn’t pay it off every month and so ended up being in debt on it for a few years.

    • I think that is how most start out – at least the limit wasn’t too high so you couldn’t get into too much trouble with it!

  14. Mine was actually the old Chase Freedom card that received 3% on your top three categories of spending. This was before Chase 10/10. You actually received UR, but the Sapphire Preferred and transfer partners weren’t available then.

  15. Mine was pretty good actually, even though I didn’t really start using it to its full potential till years later… Old Blue Cash!!!

      • When I started getting into this… I was like ‘Ohh I have this card’. And it was great when Amex used to backdate new cards.

        • We had a similar thing with my wife. I signed her up for the CSP way back when and when I set her account online she had a Freedom card in the account. She doesn’t remember ever getting it so not sure where it came from but we asked for new cards to be shipped. I was already on the account too which was so weird lol. Worked out well since I would have never been able to get one otherwise.

    • @DDG It’s funny, I think mine was also OBC. I don’t recall exactly why I signed up, It think they sent me a mailer and I figured it would be good to have a credit card. Eventually I CANCELLED IT because I wasn’t using it, haha. Years later I got it a second time and still have it now.

  16. Mine was a Providian Gold card! lol! $1k limit, worked great while I was working part time through college. They later on got bought out by Wachovia, and now Chase. It’s currently a Chase Slate card. Funny!

      • Nothing yet. Plus, since I hate the idea of letting 175,000 miles expire unused and have enough magazine subscriptions already, I am locked into having to do “Miles For Thoughts” surveys to keep them active until we can use them.

        And yes, that mileage total means we put all of our purchases on those cards for at least six months until I discovered Frequent Miler and Boarding Area blogs.

        • How many miles do you earn per dollar with that card? Sounds like an impressive total although I have no idea how many miles their flights cost 🙂

          • Two miles per dollar. Actually, reward flights during off-peak season(s) go for as little as 2,500 miles OW. That same flight is 25,000 during peak season. Although I have yet to book it, I have seen great availability to CUN from DTW in January and February. That RT would be 10,000 miles plus around $100 in taxes on a non-stop. Not a recommendation to get the card-just an observation.

          • No kidding – I lived in East Tawas for a few years so not too far from you. I was gonna say we are gonna try to do a meet up in Detroit if you are a member of our Facebook group to look out for the details but that is a hike for you.


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