- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 14, 2002

I am a loyal card-carrying American. In fact, I have to carry so many cards in order to navigate through the day that my wallet is about to burst. Should they come out with a national identity card, I hope it takes the place of a few of the 40 to 50 cards I carry now. I frequently inventory my wallet but seldom find anything I can throw away. Credit cards are an absolute necessity in a society that seems to abhor cash. Handling germ-infested, dirty money is to be avoided at all costs.

Credit cards, debit cards, supermarket club cards, organization cards and gasoline company cards are just a few of the space-consuming items in my wallet. I take particular offense at the gasoline companies that offer a reduced price per gallon for using a credit card. This is flagrant discrimination against the coin of the realm. I try to avoid these brands and cannot understand why the government allows it. Being penalized for paying cash is not my idea of a good deal.

Supermarkets that supply shopper's club cards infuriate me. I come to the store to buy their products, and unless I have one of their cards I am going to get ripped off. I lose out on the two-for-one deals and all of the sales, even though I have cash in my hand. There are quite a few supermarkets in the area, and each has its own shopping card. Figure five regular credit cards such as Visa or MasterCard, along with three or so gasoline credit cards and perhaps four supermarket cards, and you haven't even put a dent in the old wallet.

The strange thing is, I have an ATM card that gives me cash that no one wants. I know cash is dirty and you have to count it and take it to the bank where it's counted again, but I still like paying as I go.

We need a multipurpose card to make room for all the cards the government wants me to carry. I have my driver's license, car registration, Medicare card and Social Security card, and now they want me to stuff in a national identity card. You would think 50 cards with my name on them would be enough to identify me.

I understand that clerks making change for cash can be a serious problem for a business. I recently saw a computer screen above a cash register that tells the clerk how many bills and coins, and in what denominations, to return to the customer. I don't know if this is a result of our new diversity or of school systems graduating students who can't make change. I hope these people aren't employed by the credit-card companies.

I have left out cards for service clubs and department stores that issue their own credit cards. I think it would be amusing to list all these cards in my obituary. He was a member of such and such shoppers club, a 30-year holder of an XYZ gasoline company card, and so on. Do you suppose we are coming to the day where banks will have to give us some incentive to use cash? Maybe you would write a check for $100, and they'd give you $110? Dream on.

Dick Boland is a nationally syndicated columnist.

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