When I came to the St. Mary’s Cathedral Federal Credit Union in October 1966, there was a little over $500,000 in assets and two and a half employees. Today, Catholic Federal Credit Union has $215 million in assets and 80 employees. The first half dozen years at the credit union, a large percentage of our loans were made for debt consolidation. We would pay off charge accounts at local department stores and proprietors of that nature. The local municipal and district court offered a service for those debtors unable to qualify for the consolidation loan. For a nominal fee the courts would take money from the member’s weekly paycheck and disburse it monthly to creditors. Financial circumstances were much simpler then; the biggest problem members had was resisting overcharging at local department stores.

Credit cards came onto the scene and were essentially used by business people and almost no others were solicited for this product. The ease and availability of credit cards quickly changed this and the average person became a user of this indebtedness, not only locally, but on a national basis. As these credit cards evolved, the national organizations became fewer and more powerful. Consumer’s were bombarded with advertisements, swayed by the offer of rewards and frequent flier miles, and bought into the idea that charging a purchase was the most convenient way to buy.

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