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December 23, 2004

What If?

by Chris Feeney

What if I applied for every one of those credit cards? It seems like I get two or three credit card offers in the mail each week. Then there are all of those calls I still get from credit card tele-marketers (despite the fact that I am on the no-call list) offering me the newest, best credit cards on the market.

My favorite calls come from the company, with which I already have a credit card. They must think I have the best "get off the phone" excuse of them all, when I tell them I already have one of their cards. It doesn't work, they still try to get me to sign up. I must be a preferred customer or something, because they send me an application in the mail about once every two months as well.

So what if, instead of fibbing and telling the caller that Mr. Feeney moved to New Zealand, I simply said, "sure, send me your card?"

I don't because I already have a card or two. My favorite one earns me points back at Cabela's, so every dollar my wife spends helps me get free hunting and fishing stuff. But, is there any limit on the number of credit cards a person may own?

Say during the next month I fill out each and every one of the card applications I get in my junk mail. Heck, I'll even take the ones for Chris Seeney, Chris Feeney and even Fhris Ceeney.

Even then I don't know if I'll be able to catch up with "Mr. Plastic Fantastic" in California. Walter Cavanagh of Pismo Beach earned a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records as the man with the most credit cards.

Cavanagh currently has 1,497 valid credit cards that give him the potential credit line of $1.7 million. Of course he doesn't use all the cards, and simply is a collector that started back in 1969 with a friendly wager with a buddy. That year he earned a steak dinner (bought on his buddy's gold card) after winning the wager with a first-year card total of 143.

What's a guy to do with 1,500 credit cards, well, beyond buying a bigger wallet? While Mr. Plastic Fantastic (who also has the world record for longest wallet, a whopper that weighs nearly 40 pounds and holds up to 800 cards) simply enjoys collecting the cards, I have a better plan.

Most cards offer an introductory, zero percent financing on all balance transfers. They hope you'll switch cards, transferring all your debt from your old card to your new one. While there is a grace period of 60 days or up to six months on some, the credit companies are banking on the fact that most Americans have too much debt and will still be unable to pay off their balances after that time period.

Not for me - the man of 1,501 cards. If I stagger my applications, I think I could have zero percent financing on a new card, for every six months until I'm 189 years old. So I just rack up my debt, transfer from the card I used to a new card. That's right, I pay my credit card bill with another credit card.

Okay, all you realists out there say that the balloon ultimately will burst. You're right, but that will be a problem for Chris Seeney's heirs to deal with, if they can ever find any.