Credit card woes: Back to cold, hard cash?

My husband and I have been welcomed into the modern world of credit card fraud recently, replacing the same credit card twice in the last few months after our information was stolen and sold to some person in Ohio, then somebody else in California.

The Ohio person only charged $5 at what appeared to be a hotel bar, likely testing out the card to see if it would be red-flagged.

The more recent activity came last weekend, when I was awakened to a text from my credit card company, asking if I had charged $80 to a “professional service.” Curious as to what that professional service may have been, I ended up on the phone with the credit card company and learned that someone had paid for a nanny in California using my card number.

I felt bad canceling the charge. Who buys a stolen credit card to charge nanny services for their kids? I would’ve expected a charge for a 50-inch flat-screen TV or a new iPad, something non-essential.

But cancel it I did, and the company overnighted a new card to my home yet again.

I’ve never had this kind of problem before. It’s enough to make me consider making the move back to cash. If only it were that easy.

My husband and I stick to a pretty detailed budget each month. OK, we try to, but for the most part, we know on the first of each month where our paychecks will have gone by the time the 30th or the 31st rolls around. A certain percentage goes into savings, another percentage goes to the student loans, the mortgage, the car payments, groceries, gas. My husband keeps a spread sheet with a line item for almost every category you could possibly think of. He has more patience for that sort of thing than I do.

Using our credit and debit cards makes it a lot easier for him to keep that spreadsheet up to date, since we don’t have to keep track of every cash transaction. He can just download the activity from each of the sole credit card and our two debit cards to the spreadsheet.

But as time goes on and we hear more and more of these massive thefts of personal information from major department stores as well as online – Heartbleed, anyone? – it may be time to go back to cash.

The only information that can be gleaned from a dollar bill is where it’s been since it was printed, if you happen to get one stamped with a website like www.wheresgeorge.com, www.trackdollarbills.com or other, similar sites.

Obtaining that kind of information is neat, not predatory.

Local businesses likely prefer cash too, since they don’t have to deal with credit card transaction fees. And no cash system in the world will be out of service because of bad weather. As a former waitress, I can’t begin to explain the melt down that occurs when credit card systems stop working. It’s like the world is coming to an end. There is much weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth.

Actual money has been around for a long time in one form or another. It’s stood the test of time for a reason.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Jackie Stark is a Chocolay Township resident and a staff reporter at The Mining Journal. Her column appears bi-weekly. She can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242. Her email address is jstark@miningjournal.net.