43 Folders

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43Folders.com is Merlin Mann’s website about finding the time and attention to do your best creative work.

Toward a hygienic credit card

You've probably heard the advice to photocopy your wallet's contents; in the event that you lose your wallet, this makes it easy to know what you need to cancel and replace. Smart.

I recently received a new credit card and had forgotten what a hassle it is to change the info across all my various online accounts. Here's a few suggestions based on things I did this time around that should make it easier (or at least more interesting) the next time this happens.

Write it down now

Create an OmniOutliner (or text or Excel or Google Docs) document, and capture the name of every account, site, or other location where you needed to update your credit card information. Also, create a second column where you paste the exact URL for the page you had to visit to make your change. (I'm already up to about 15 of these).

I really wish I'd already done this one of the other times I've gone through this; feels like it'll really be handy for the next time.

Related: consider also creating columns where you paste in URLs, email addresses, or phone numbers for each company's customer service department -- particularly in case you need to escalate your updating to a live human.

Get cheap

Feeling like trimming back your lifestyle? Try hanging back a day or two or ten, and just wait for vendors to contact you about your "invalid card." It can be astounding how many accounts you have set to run or renew automatically, and, believe me, merchants will let you know when they can't run your card for some reason. This gives you a nice opportunity to verify for yourself that you really want all that stuff people are running your card to buy. Hell, I'm feeling tempted to "lose" my card every six months, just for the personal audit it provides.

Obviously, you don't want to get critical services accidentally cancelled, but, at least in my experience, merchants are accustomed to users with multiple cards that sometimes just stop working for non-nefarious (if sometimes seemingly incompetent) reasons. Still, use this one with care.

One card for online

I'm tempted by the idea of using one credit card just for online purchases. I'm not sure this buys me any particular protection over mixing usage, but I'm attracted to the idea of making it a little easier to track down where abuse might have occurred, and "life" versus "the internet" seems like a satisfying taxonomy to start with.

I suppose if you're some kind of mogul, you could get really granular, although I'd stop at the point where you have, say, a dedicated "Thai food card," or the like.

As I've mentioned before, I'm a big fan of "Be Prepared" ideas like The Sick Box and The Blackout Box, but what do you think?

The Question to You

What’s your best practice for safe and convenient credit card hygiene? If you've had to go through updating your accounts tomorrow, what would you do differently from the last time?

About Merlin

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Merlin Mann is an independent writer, speaker, and broadcaster. He’s best known for being the guy who created the website you’re reading right now. He lives in San Francisco, does lots of public speaking, and helps make cool things like You Look Nice Today, Back to Work, and Kung Fu Grippe. Also? He’s writing this book, he lives with this face, he suffers from this hair, he answers these questions, and he’s had this life. So far.

Merlin’s favorite thing he’s written in the past few years is an essay entitled, “Cranking.”




An Oblique Strategy:
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