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"It Will Ruin Your Life," This Woman Said After Opening A Store Credit Card That Plummeted Her Credit, And Jeopardized Her Efforts To Buy A Home

"It will have been the most expensive financial mistake I've ever made."

Cassidy Gard, a television producer from Los Angeles, California, had no idea that opening a store credit card would ultimately destroy her credit and jeopardize her efforts to buy a home.

Cassidy shared her story on TikTok, where it quickly gained over 4 million views and tens of thousands of comments. In the video, she tearfully explains that in May, she was checking out at Home Depot when an employee convinced her to open a store credit card. After opening the card, she immediately forgot about it, causing the charge she put on the card to pay for a can of paint to go into default, and drop her credit score over 100 points. "For a $9 can of paint, I am now probably not gonna get a mortgage on a house."

@cassidygard

Storytime…might be losing dream house over $9 @homedepot paint 💩 #help #homedepot @selffinancial #creditcard #finance #creditscore #fyp #mortgage

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If you've made it this far and are confused by the terms "credit" and "credit score," don't worry, you're not alone. Basically, credit is an agreement to borrow money and make purchases but pay back the entire amount within a certain timeframe. A credit score basically tracks and "scores" you based on how well you're able to do that, and helps lenders assess your level of risk as a borrower. In the US, a strong credit score is crucial for opening a new credit card, buying a home, etc.

"Don't open credit cards at stores. It will ruin your life," she concludes.

Cassidy in the TikTok
@cassidygard / Via tiktok.com

BuzzFeed reached out to Cassidy for more details, and she said that when she was approached in the store, the employee actually used different language when persuading her to open the card. Rather than saying, "credit card," they told her it was a "rewards card."

"I don’t even think I was totally aware that I was applying for a new line of credit. All I knew was that I was getting a discount on my current purchase for the can of paint. I always say no when I get asked to open a credit card. I don't totally remember, but I feel like I said no once, and she might've followed up one more time. I was in a hurry and frazzled, and I think on the second time that she asked, I just said, 'Sure,' and started the sign-up process."

Cassidy told BuzzFeed that if she'd made a bigger purchase — like a fridge or washing machine — the charge probably wouldn't have slipped her mind, but, "Since it was a small can of paint for repairs I was doing in my kitchen, it was much easier to forget about. I just never dreamed that such a small oversight could dip my credit so significantly."

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Over the course of four months, Cassidy's $5.35 charge for the can of paint became delinquent, and her credit score plummeted. Because she was traveling over the summer and never received an email notification about the charge, she had no idea. At the same time, she made a non-refundable down payment on a home, and now may not even qualify for the home based on her credit. "I think you have to look at the mistake vs. the consequence. Even if I do finally qualify for this mortgage, my mortgage rate will be 3%–5% higher than it would have been based on my credit score before this mistake happened. The mistake vs. the consequence was not proportional."

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While Cassidy's situation is tragic and unfair, it's unfortunately not unique. Many people don't understand the danger and predatory nature of opening store credit cards (because, as we all know, many aspects of financial literacy are not common knowledge). Cassidy told BuzzFeed that she was shocked to find so many people sharing her same experience in the comments on her video. "I saw a lot of people mentioning charges between $5–$25 that destroyed their credit, and the common thread I kept seeing over and over was the different stores they made their mistakes in. That means it resonated with a large number of people, who were all pressured into opening store credit cards too."

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"I believe there should be an automatic grace period for these tiny, innocuous amounts. If it’s under $25, no one’s credit should be destroyed like this. It will have been the most expensive financial mistake I've ever made."

Just wanna say real quick that there were also people in the comments blaming Cassidy for the entire situation, to which I say:

text: Lotta people in these comments acting like nothing has ever slipped their minds before. A $9 charge could potentially cost her a literal home
@cassidygard / Via tiktok.com

Anyway, once she realized what had happened, Cassidy tried to start the process of setting her credit right. She spoke with Citibank, the company that runs the Home Depot credit cards, and they agreed to make a one-time goodwill adjustment to help repair her credit score. However, upon further following up with the head of financial services with Home Depot, Cassidy was told they would not be making the adjustment after all. "It was incredibly frustrating that they agreed to do it, and then suddenly took it back after already telling me they would honor it."

"My credit has still not recovered from this, and right now it is a waiting game to see what the bank lender will say," Cassidy told BuzzFeed.

Ultimately, Cassidy thinks her situation speaks to a much larger issue (and I agree, TBH!!!). First, there's the misleading language used to sell store credit cards. Rather than being presented as a new line of credit (what they actually are), they're often peddled as a lower-risk "rewards card." And judging by one of the comments on Cassidy's TikTok, employees often need to use whatever means necessary to sell the cards and reach quotas set by their employer.

@cassidygard / Via tiktok.com

Second, there's the fact that none of this is common knowledge. "Everyone always jokes about how in most school systems in America, none of us are taught basic life skills, like how to do our taxes, what even is a credit score, student loan debt, budgeting, money management, etc. I see memes all the time that poke fun at high school seniors taking Algebra 2, but not knowing basic finance fundamentals. Everything I know, I learned from Google when it comes to finance."

@cassidygard

Reply to @alexandralameass Schools want you to be ignorant about money so you are conditioned to work a 9-5 & not have the tools to 💸💸💸 #fyp #money

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And last (but certainly not least), it's the nature of the US credit system in general. "Not all credit cards are bad. Credit cards do help people build credit, and if you're using a card that has a high points rewards system, then you can get small amounts of money back on your purchases over time. For 10+ years, I have been incredibly careful about my credit and not getting into credit card debt. I've always had phenomenal credit, and it's alarming how fragile the credit score system is that with one $5 mistake, it could plummet a score over 100 points, and by default cost thousands more over time because of the significantly higher interest rates."

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"If my experience can shine a light on a broader issue and invoke actual change for how credit report systems work, then I would be happy if my extremely negative, roller coaster of an experience helped someone else not have to go through this. Additionally, there should be protocols for how credit cards are represented to shoppers in stores. A 'rewards card' is very different than a 'credit card,' and even if you can get rewards through charging items on a card, the term should not be used when trying to get customers to sign up for new lines of credit."

"It should be a much longer process to apply for a credit card, with more information presented to you, than the amount of time it takes to buy a piece of gum."

For more information on credit and credit scores, check out these resources here and here. You also can follow Cassidy and her financial journey on TikTok and Instagram.

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