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Credit Card Plot

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Captain Murphy: You didn't tell me I had to pay them back!
Sparks: Well, not exactly.
Captain Murphy: You exactly told me that it was a magical goodies creator!

When a sitcom character is issued a credit card without understanding the ramifications of its use, they will treat it as free money and be grossly irresponsible with it. When the Shockingly Expensive Bill arrives, or when a store cuts the card up into pieces, they will be hit with the realization that the card was not the bottomless supply of cash they thought it was, and must earn the capital needed to repay their massive debt.

The credit card is usually provided to a teenage character by a parent for emergencies, only for them to regard a closeout sale at the mall as an emergency. In these cases, the character is more likely to be in trouble with their parents as opposed to an actual bank, but still needs to pay back or work off the debt in some way. Pretty much discredited for adult characters unless they're idiots.

Common in media from the late '80s into the mid '90s, due to the rising availability of credit cards to the common folk of the world, and at the time acting as a necessary anvil in reaction to a real-world credit crisis.

To resolve the story quickly, the creditor will simply repossess their purchases (additional Hilarity May Ensue when they go too far). Real world credit cards are a form of unsecured debt and therefore, repossession is not a possible means of collection on the default. Instead, a debtor would be subject to a decimated credit score, endless collection calls and letters, and finally a lawsuit by the lender.

Compare Company Credit Card Abuse when the card is issued by the character's employer. Compare Never Win the Lottery where the character wrongly thinks they've won a fortune. Also see Ms. Red Ink.


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  • One of the Free Credit Score song-ads out in 2011 has parents of a girl heading to her sophomore year of college giving her a credit card, co-signed by them, to "buy books, not beer". She proceeds to buy a whole bunch of frivolous things, ruining their credit score and resulting in a very pissed off-looking pair of parents taking the credit card away from their sheepish daughter.
  • Another college-related one for Discover had parents give a boy a credit card, citing it "only for emergencies". He thinks nothing of it till a party where they run out of pizza which he cites as an emergency. However he quickly abuses the privilege by buying all sorts of things like clothes, stereos, etc. Not surprisingly his dad visits him as he's in scuba wear and angrily shows the credit bills he's been racking up.

    Anime & Manga 
  • Magical Pokaan, second chapter: the girls are watching TV, and they run across the home shopping channel. Liru gets a tanning lamp, Pachira gets a boob enlarger, Yuuma gets an electric ab-toner, and Aiko gets a food processor. Then they get really carried away. At the end of the month, the bank calls in, and all the stuff they bought gets repossessed. One of the girls then says "at least we got to know how being rich is like!"
  • The Laughing Salesman New has a very unique version of this plot in the episode "Make a Budget and Stick to it". An under appreciated office lady named Takashima Mitsuko has a shopping problem and is given a special credit card by Fukuzou Moguro that lets her buy whatever she wants, but on the condition that it will be repossessed the next day. After growing bored with not being able to own anything, Takashima decides to use the card on spa and cosmetic treatments... only to learn the hard way that there are no exceptions on what can be repossessed.

    Film — Animated 
  • Raya and the Last Dragon: While Raya goes off to find the Talon tribe's piece of the Dragon Gem, Sisu gets the idea of buying a gift for the tribe's leader as a peace offering, but realizes that she doesn't have any money. Boun suggests buying on credit, which he describes as "sort of like a promise [...] that you'll pay for it later." Sisu takes this advice and goes around scooping up items left and right at the market — it gets her into trouble, however, when the shopkeepers realize that she's not paying them.

    Film — Live Action 
  • Blank Check has this where a villain planning to embezzle $1 million from a bank runs over a kid's bicycle, and since he's in a hurry, gives the kid a blank check to buy a new one. The kid then decides to put $1 million as the check amount, and receives it in cash due to the villain's confederate, the bank manager, assumes that he's the henchmen that the villain had mentioned. The kid then spends the entire million on a mansion and all kinds of toys, coming to a head when a massive party stops in the middle because he doesn't have enough cash to pay the caterer and the villains find out where the kid lives. The kid gets off scot-free as the villains are arrested by the FBI and he walks away from all this stuff.
  • This is pretty much the entire plot of the Confessions of a Shopaholic. The main character spends the film running up thousands of pounds of debt, messing up her job and friendships in the process because she's obsessed with shopping.
  • In Don't Tell Mom the Babysitter's Dead, the younger siblings pilfer money from their sister's new job's petty cash box, considering it free money. After panicking, the older sister, who is still in high school, has to set up and manage a major '80s style fashion show to repay it. Hilarity Ensues.
  • In Home Alone 2: Lost in New York, Kevin has possession of his dad's credit card and uses it to check into the Plaza Hotel. At the end of the film, it's revealed that he spent nearly $1000 on room service alone.
  • Discussed in Maxed Out: Hard Times, Easy Credit by James D. Scurlock, which examines how providing excess credit to people who would never have qualified before can produce huge profits as they attempt to pay off the debts they cannot afford. By adding spurious and expensive charges to the extortionate interest, you can lend say £1000, receive maybe £2000 and then write off £5000 when selling the debt on to people who will hound the debtor. After seven years a debt slides off your credit score, but if you are convinced to pay back a single penny, the clock is set to 0 again.
  • Inverted in The Sure Thing. Gib and Alison have lost all their money and are stuck in a rainstorm, trying to break into a locked trailer for shelter, when Alison remembers a credit card her father had given her. But then she remembers something important:
    Alison: Oh. My dad told me specifically I can only use it in case of an emergency.

  • In Adrian Mole and the Weapons of Mass Destruction, the protagonist constantly uses new credit cards to pay off his towering debts. Of course, they just get bigger that way.
    • In the previous books, his parents did the same thing, so you can blame it on them not setting a good example. Also, it's an unfortunately common case of Truth in Television.
    • Interestingly, in all the previous books, Adrian is shown as a self-confessed miser with a pathological fear of debt, which made this sudden transformation into a reckless overspender rather unconvincing.
  • The Cheetah Girls: Shop in the Name of Love; the narrator runs up a bill on her mom's card. When her mom takes the card back, she continues her spending, over the phone, using the card number she copied against the eventuality.
  • In China Rich Girlfriend, the sequel to Crazy Rich Asians, Colette Bing is unable to pay for one of her typically jaw-dropping dinners, unaware that her father has cut off her Titanium card out of spite—and that there is, in fact, such thing as a credit card rejection. Her assistant, Roxanne, steps in to pay with her black card.
  • Dave Barry Slept Here parodies this trope at the beginning of Chapter Eight, where the newly organized United States government has failed to pay back its war debts from The American Revolution and is ominously informed by the VISA Corporation (motto: "More Powerful than God") that unless they promptly repay tens of millions of dollars, "we will regretfully have to return you to British rule." Then Alexander Hamilton gives the Founding Fathers a bright idea for repaying the debt: print money with their portraits on it.
  • In one of The Destroyer books Chiun, the Sinandju master Master of Sinanju, received from his employer Mad Emperor Smith a golden MasterCard meant to help him accommodate in the USA. Despising both the USA and its culture deeply, Chiun naturally never bothered to learn the proper conventions of the credit card usage, and of course ignored any explanations his adopted son Remo tried to give him, and simply assumed that the card instilled great awe and veneration in the hearts of dim-witted Americans, and discarded the monthly bills as garbage.
    • Not that this is different from the way Chiun normally looks upon people who will (to the reader) clearly be expecting payment. Or at least people from a country less than a thousand years old.
  • Not a credit card, but the sequel to Freaky Friday has Anabelle, Boris, and Ben come into possession of a TV that shows all the shows for the next day. They decide to use it to watch the next day's horse racing and win enough money to get Boris's mother new clothes, redecorate the apartment, and generally give her life a makeover. In the process, they lose the last of the money through a mistake and now have a bill of several thousand to pay. All ends well as Boris's mother was paid more than enough by Paramount to write them a movie script.
  • Jo's Boys features the nineteenth century version of one. Details at the work page, but in brief a pauper is given more money than he knows how to wisely use and is placed among big spenders. The inevitable happens, but he's honest enough to learn from his mistake and go back to a pauper's life until he repays his debts.
  • There's no actual card but in On the Banks of Plum Creek, Pa buys lumber for a house and a new stove on credit, counting on his wheat crop to pay it off. It wouldn't sound so rash if the neighbors hadn't warned him about "grasshopper weather", which he dismisses as some strange Norwegian expression, and a swarm of locusts didn't destroy the crop right before the harvest.
    • In The First Four Years, Laura's calculations of Almanzo's various borrowings on credit make for very dry reading, up until her conclusion: she'd "just as soon have a mortgage on Manly."
  • In So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish we're told that, during his time on Earth, Ford Prefect got an American Express card due to an administrative error. Exactly how big an error this turned out to be came as a shock to them, given Ford's generally irresponsible habits, and the fact he didn't take Earth money entirely seriously anyway.
  • Stim: During a hypomanic episode, Robert uses Chloe's credit card to spend $4,827.75 on purchases that include a moped (which promptly gets stolen). Chloe tells Robert her father will pay the debt. He doesn't have to. Robert also made a USD/CHF trade, which, thanks to changes in the exchange rate, results in a profit of $16,248. Chloe pays off her debt and splits the rest between herself and Robert.
  • Not a credit card per se, but one of the Sweet Valley High books has Jessica charge too much on her mother's account at Lisette's. Alice finds out and demands that Jessica get a job to pay off the account.
    • A subsequent novel in the Sweet Valley University series plays this trope straighter: After signing up for a pre-approved gold card without reading any of the fine print, Denise Waters goes on an overspending spree until she's forced to wash dishes to pay her fancy and lengthy dinner bill.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The primary plot of California Dreams episode "Woo-ops" deals with Sam, who risks being sent home to Hong Kong by her father when she gets too many excessive purchases from the credit card her father gives her with the explicit instruction that it's reserved for emergency uses only, needing to look for ways to raise money to pay her father back, with assistance from her peers.
  • The sitcom Charles in Charge had an episode in which Charles got a credit card with a low limit, intending to use it responsibly. However, the kids get hold of it and run up a large bill, causing Charles to be embarrassed when his card is rejected during a date.
  • The Charmings ran up a huge debt after their neighbor introduced them to credit cards. Fortunately, they had a closet full of gold bars to pay it off.
  • CSI: Miami had an episode (Episode 6, Season 4: Bang, Bang, Your Debt) where all the deaths resulted from the debt problems of college students with new credit cards (issued on campus by credit card company employees who encouraged the students to spend irresponsibly as well as purposely forget to mention all the negative effects that can come from it, not to mention taking the Evil Debt Collector trope to the most Jerkass of extremes (intimidating calls, "negotiating" reduction of debt with sexual favors (and then taking back their promise to reduce the debt once the favor was collected), calling the debtor's contacts to tell them personally about the debtor's problem (and lying large about his personality)... the thorough destruction of lives that this creates drives (at least two) people to suicide, and the survivor of the attempt to a Roaring Rampage of Revenge).
  • In one episode of Derry Girls, Michelle borrows her mother's credit card without permission in order to buy everyone dresses for the prom. The plan is to wear them for one night, then return them, but in typical Doomed New Clothes fashion, Michelle's dress is ruined and she gets in trouble for the purchase at the end of the episode.
  • In an episode of The Facts of Life, Natalie falls victim when she receives a pre-approved credit card from the bank. Though responsible at first, buying only an appointment book and a pair of bunny rabbit earmuffs, she quickly loses control, running up a $1000+ bill on a new wardrobe in an effort to have a "more professional image."
  • A similar example occurs in Friends when Joey runs up quite a high credit card bill on ridiculous things while he's working on Days of Our Lives. He assumes, fairly reasonably, that he'll be able to cover it, but when he gets fired, he finds himself unable to keep up with the payments and his stuff ends up being repossessed.
  • A Running Gag on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air is Hilary's obsession with shopping and constant racking up of credit card debt. However this is always Played for Laughs since the Banks' are rich so it acts as more of a nuisance than a threat to their finances.
  • Grounded for Life: Lily is given a credit card (by Claudia against Sean's better judgement) and goes on a shopping spree only to find out she can only return the clothes for store credit.
  • Done on an episode of Hannah Montana. Hilarity Ensues. Then reversed, with Miley giving Lilly her checkbook so that she won't be tempted to use it. Hilarity Ensues again.
    • Though it should be noted that the whole premise of the episode was, arguably, questionable, making this one of the more egregious examples of this trope. Seeing as how Miley's alter-ego is a pop sensation in the show's universe, she should have millions of dollars anyway so it shouldn't even be an issue. Even if she IS a minor, she should at least be seeing some of that money unless her dad is a COMPLETE jackass, and even then courts usually rule that child stars get some control of the money they make.
  • The primary plot of the Hang Time episode "Easy Credit" involves Silk spending too much with his newly-acquired credit card (e.g. buying 50 pairs of socks because he hates doing laundry), which culminates in him needing external assistance due to his inability to pay the car garage mechanic with his credit card when his car breaks down. In a Clip Show episode later on, he remarks that he has to spend months working jobs to Work Off the Debt.
  • Done multiple times on Hey Dad..!. In one episode Nudge gets a credit card, but doesn't realize you have to pay the money back. In another, Betty gets a card and starts getting deeper and deeper into debt.
  • Lily in How I Met Your Mother has her "box of shame," a whole shoebox full of maxed out credit cards until she's completely lost count of how much debt she owes. This comes back to bite her when she and Marshall are trying to buy an apartment together as her horrible credit score makes it nearly impossible to get a mortgage.
  • I Dream of Jeannie naturally couldn't overlook this trope. Unusually for this trope, there was a follow-up episode, where Jeannie reacts to her free-spending folly with a draconian budget.
  • Leave It to Beaver had Eddie Haskel using a gas station card (very early version of a credit card) to rack up debt.
  • On Lizzie McGuire, Gordo gets a credit card in the mail and uses it to fund the sci-fi movie he wants to make, but runs out of credit after spending recklessly and never completes the film.
  • Malcolm in the Middle: After Reese is kicked out of the house for a bad prank, he rents his own apartment, and does surprisingly well... until his parents find out he didn't quite grasp the concept of a credit card.
    • In another episode, Malcolm's parents find out Malcolm bought Christmas presents with a credit card they didn't know he had. Hal uses a pretend hug as a pretense to steal the card, which Hal then uses to pay for a trip for the entire family without telling Malcolm that he put it on Malcolm's credit card.
  • In the Mama's Family episode "Zirconias Are a Girl's Best Friend," Mama discovers a shopping channel called "KRAY Teleshopper" and instantly becomes addicted, running up a huge credit card bill on such things as: matching zirconia jewelry, personal handheld fans, a bronze gavel, and a "portrait of Elvis that lights up."
  • The Bundys, of Married... with Children, go nuts with a credit card that is accidentally issued in Buck the dog's name. All the stuff gets repossessed after Steve tells Bud that what Al and Peg are doing is illegal; of course, the romantic evening Al treated Peggy to at the best hotel in town can't exactly be repossessed, so Al ends up having to work as a bellhop at the hotel to pay it back.
    • That episode, along with a few other examples of 'cards mailed to non-people' on this page, used the quite true fact that anything mailed to you without you ordering it is legally yours. (And the implicit fact that stuff mailed to your pets is actually mailed to you.) But as the show pointed out, the fact that the family legally possesses the physical card doesn't mean they're off the hook for using it fraudulently, especially as Al was signing the receipts in Buck's name.
    • Married...with Children was a big user of this trope, using many variations of the Credit Card Plot over its run. Another instance (and one of the few episodes where Peggy gets her comeuppance) is when Peggy becomes an Avon saleswoman, and starts buying products from herself, not understanding how sales commission works. When Al finds out about this, he explains the lapse in logic to her, then makes her work at a fast food restaurant to pay the debt back.
  • Unusual example from My Name Is Earl, in retaliation to a tire popping incident. The credit card used was stolen from Joy's half-sister and Sitcom Arch-Nemesis, Liberty, back when Earl and Joy were still married. They used the card to purchase all sorts of wacky things (laser eye surgery for a random homeless guy, tap dancing lessons for Randy, Jimmy Buffet tickets, a tanning bed, rented jet skis, just to name a few things.) Liberty was receiving hundreds of calls per day from bill collectors and credit monitoring agencies, but she eventually got the debt erased. Earl and Joy still find a way to make up for it. Namely, by getting Joy to surrogate a baby for Liberty, so the latter could pursue her wrestling career and still have the child she and her husband wanted.
  • In Ned's Declassified School Survival Guide, Cookie runs up a massive debt on his "emergency" card buying everything from pizza to a pony from one instant-delivery company.
    Ned: Don't you know how a credit card works? You get a bill at the end of the month for all the stuff on it. How are you going to pay for that?
    • This eventually came back to bite him in the ass when he wound up stranded in the desert (don't ask, it's an odd show) and when he tried to use the card, found he was over his spending limit.
  • An odd version that sets off the episode's main plot happened in an early episode of Ressha Sentai ToQger. Tokatti ends up realizing their pass could be used to buy anything they want and goes on a massive shopping spree. When he gets back, he's reminded by Wagon that he has to work off the charges and that usually means washing dishes. Seeing as he bought HD TVs and a laptop computer among other things, he panics, trips, pulls himself up and quickly races back to return everything, not wanting that kind of credit on his person.
  • Sabrina the Teenage Witch: Sabrina gets a witch credit card that lets her zap in anything she wants. Though in a twist, she doesn't accumulate debt and learn a lesson in personal finances, she becomes literally spoiled rotten and has to learn to be charitable.
  • People who run up huge credit card debts and who genuinely thought it worked like a gift card, and are horrified that they have to pay it back. Parodied by Saturday Night Live here.
  • In the second episode of Shake it Up, the girls open bank accounts in order to manage their income from as dancers on Shake It Up Chicago. Now wielding debit cards, they find it surprisingly easy to lose track of how much they've been spending, and find themselves holding a check they can't pay at an expensive Italian restaurant.
  • Sister, Sister, "Mo Credit, Mo Problems": The girls get an emergency credit card. Their friends convince one of them that a sale at a clothing store is an emergency. Thus, when their car breaks down and they get stranded in a bad neighborhood, they don't have enough emergency credit to pay the tow truck guy.
  • In the Smallville episode "Red", Clark Kent gets exposed to red kryptonite and becomes a selfish, irresponsible jerk. One of his dickish deeds is taking his parents' credit cards and buying enough video games, sound systems, furniture, etc to fill up the barn. His parents protest that they can't pay for all this stuff, but he says that's not his problem. When Clark goes back to normal, he dutifully returns everything he bought and pays off the debt.
  • J.T. on Step by Step. His father is reluctant to let him keep the card, knowing something like this will happen. But he does, and, of course, it happens. J.T. gets another card at the end of the episode, which Frank promptly shreds.
  • The Steve Harvey Show: Cedric gets a platinum card and immediately runs it up by buying unnecessary items like a leather bathrobe. When the end of the month arrives, he does not have the money to pay the bill in full. He agrees to a payment plan that will pretty much take him the rest of his life to pay off.
  • One episode of That's So Raven had Cory's pet rat Lionel be sent a credit card, which Cory and his friend use to order a whole mess of stuff, including an ice cream truck.
  • The Twilight Zone (1985): In "The Card", a compulsive spender named Linda Wolfe is given a strangely accessible credit card only to find out the consequences of not covering her purchases when the company first repossesses her pets Boris and Scooby and then her children Matt, Evan and B.J., who don't even remember who she is. She desperately tries to buy them back using her joint checking account, but her husband Brian cancels the payment thinking she's lost her mind because he doesn't remember their kids. With the checks bounced, the episode ends with Linda unable to do anything but watch helplessly as Brian, her home, her entire life and eventually she herself are repossessed from the face of the Earth, leaving not a trace save for the credit card.
  • Averted on Undeclared. All of the main characters get credit cards, but Lloyd and Ron only get into trouble because they use them to buy stock. They are rescued by Marshall, who has just been fooling around with it, using the card to get a wad of cash and then playing Briefcase Full of Money.
    • In the middle of the episode they subvert the trope, in that Ron and Lloyd start spending like crazy when they are excited about the success of their stock. But when the stock tanks, they easily return all the products, presumably for a full refund. note 
  • On Yakov Smirnoff's sitcom, What A Country, Yakov discovers credit cards and declares, "You give people plastic and they give you stuff."
  • On an episode of What's Happening!!, Rerun gets a bunch of credit cards and goes crazy buying stuff, getting into debt. The gang sell off most of the stuff and get most of the debt paid off. The episode ends with Rerun chopping up his credit cards with a blender.

  • The Arrogant Worms "Put it on Credit (And Then Forget It)".
  • Dick Feller's "The Credit Card Song".
  • The Limeliters' "A Dollar Down".
    As their debts began to mount
    They added them up upon a sheet
    They said with tears, 'We'll take a thousand years
    At a dollar down and a dollar a week"
  • Bob Mould's "Brasilia Crossed with Trenton":
    I used to be a big shopper 'round the world
    Big credit cards, they don't matter anymore
    'Cause I can't pay any money that I owe
    To these cards anymore

    Newspaper Comics 
  • In FoxTrot, the idea of Paige getting a credit card is regarded with unbelievable dread, to the point that fake ones with her name on them are even used as Halloween decorations — and Roger is horrified.
  • Get Fuzzy liked to do this from time to time by having Bucky (and sometimes Satchel) order all sorts of random stuff on Rob's card(s).
    • Or on Bucky's card, in one case. Rob eventually manages to get it cancelled.
  • In Over the Hedge the animals routinely use credit cards to order stuff, then get out of paying them back.
    • One arc has RJ running up a massive debt in several cards issued in Verne's name, then getting him out of trouble by paying with a Nigerian Express card.
  • Used in a Zits arc:
    Jeremy: I'm just filling the hot tub... why don't you just lie down in the hammock and relax.
    Dad: *sits down in the hammock* Wait a minute... we don't have a hot tub.
    Jeremy: Didn't have a hot tub.

  • Happened to Connie Kendall in the Adventures in Odyssey episode "A Little Credit, Please":
    Connie: I just bought a few things, not [the amount over her limit].
    Mrs. Kendall: Connie, my guess is, if you looked through your receipts, your "few things" cost more than you thought.
    Connie: But... where am I going to get that kind of money when the bill comes?
    Mrs. Kendall: That's a very good question. I can't wait to hear your answer.

    Tabletop RPG 
  • GURPS Illuminati University includes a sample adventure where the characters acquire a magical credit card with no limit — if you try to check the account's balance, it reads "JACKPOT". Later on — likely after they've purchased a bunch of expensive stuff — they'll find out that the card is made in Hell, and the debt is paid not with money, but in souls! The plot is played out as a parody of The Lord of the Rings with the card taking the place of the Ring.

  • MegaTokyo: The reason that Piro and Largo get stranded in Japan in the first place is because both of them max out their credit cards while in Japan.
  • Played with in Men in Hats:
    Aram: Today I bought a new hat. And then you know what? I bought one hundred more! That's just the crazy type of guy I am until my account is frozen.
    Gamal: What type of guy will you be then?
    Aram: Hopefully the really fast kind.
  • An early Penny Arcade strip has Gabe receive a CompUSA credit card. Played with in that he gets a call the next day indicating that the card was issued accidentally and that any use of it would constitute fraud... to which Gabe only replies, "Oh." while standing in a room full of brand-new electronics. Somewhat funnier in hindsight considering CompUSA has all but gone bankrupt by now.

    Web Original 
  • A not-lengthy browse through the archives of Not Always Right will find not only people who run up huge credit card debts, but people who genuinely thought it worked like a gift card, and are horrified that they have to pay it back. Most can be found under the title of "This Is Why We’re In A Recession, Part X".note 
  • Mani Mani People: Yurios gets his hands on his dad's credit card. Thinking it was a magic card, he spends money on the card eventually getting his parents into debt.

    Web Videos 

    Western Animation 
  • 6teen uses this as the origin story (of sorts) for Caitlin Cooke, the newest addition to the main group of teens on the show. To go into greater detail:
    • Caitlin was originally BFFs with resident mean girl, Tricia Holmes, and was initially just as mean, rude and snobby as Tricia was—Caitlin was also unaware that credit cards even had spending limits in the first place. She ends up maxing out her credit card while shopping at the Khaki Barn, where Nikki Wong (who becomes one of Caitlin's new BFFs) ends up getting a job.
    • After calling her parents about what happened, Mr. and Mrs. Cooke force Caitlin to get a job in order to not only pay off the credit card she maxed out, but to teach her "the value of a dollar." Caitlin, naturally, is upset about this—but she ends up meeting and befriending the rest of the main six (with Jen Masterson being the first of them to befriend Caitlin).
    • Caitlin ultimately gets job at a lemonade in the Galleria Mall-food court called "The Big Squeeze," serving as Jen's replacement after she gets a job at a sporting goods store called "The Penalty Box." Caitlin does eventually pay back her parents for the credit card she maxed out, but it takes her a little over a year to do so.
    • Despite paying back the credit card she maxed out, Caitlin ultimately chooses to not only continue working at the Big Squeeze, but also to continue going credit card-less (for the most part at least—some of the later episodes say that Caitlin still uses a credit card, just not nearly as frequently as before).
  • In American Dragon: Jake Long, while under the influence of a magical age-up, Jake buys a car using credit cards despite not having a paying job. By the end of the episode, he's back to normal and working in his grandfather's shop to pay off his credit card debt.
  • Done in conjunction with a The Little Shop That Wasn't There Yesterday plot in Archie's Weird Mysteries. A mall mysteriously shows up in Riverdale and the gang go to check it out. The owner gives them free credit cards and tells them to spend to their heart's content. However, when Archie, Reggie, Veronica, and Betty go over their limits they suddenly disappear and are turned into mannequins for the shop's displays. Only Jughead doesn't fall for it as he prefers his old hangout, Pop's, to the mall which allows him to eventually figure out that the owner is actually a demon whose trying to capture many of the town's souls so he can pay off his debt. Destroying the cards breaks the spell over the victims and once they escape the mall crumbles to rubble with said demon inside.
  • Beavis And Butthead: In "Good Credit", the duo steal Mr. Anderson's credit card and use it to buy hundreds of dollars worth of animals; meanwhile, Anderson and his wife try to check into a motel only to realize that his credit card is missing.
  • Beetlejuice gets a credit card in the episode "Keeping Up With the Boneses" (the Boneses are an upscale Neitherworld couple) and goes on a spending spree. He gets his first bill and realizes he has no money. Beetlejuice is consigned to having Lydia being kept by the credit card company as collateral or return everything he's bought. He follows his broken heart and returns all the merchandise to bail out Lydia, only now he's consigned to being a department store Santa so he can pay for the interest on his purchases. As poetic justice, the Boneses are in the same boat after spending all their liquid assets trying to outdo Beetlejuice.
  • In an episode of Birdz, Eddie Storkowitz uses his father's credit card to buy lavish gifts first for his teacher, then for his entire class.
  • Done in Brandy & Mr. Whiskers. Justified in that Whiskers, who ran up the debt, is an idiot who believes what he's told regardless of past experiences. And, well, he was told he no longer had to worry about getting enough money to pay for all the crap he needed/wanted, so...
  • Subverted in an episode of Cow and Chicken; Chicken attempts to go crazy with a credit card he won in a box of cereal, only to be (rudely) informed by the store clerk that there's only 25 cents of credit on it. After he does make a purchase within the limit though, the Red Guy shows up as a bill collector IMMEDIATELY. The rest of the episode is Red's attempts to finagle payment from Cow and Chicken for the item, a stick of gum. He ultimately resorts to blackmail.
  • A variation in the Family Guy episode "Eight Simple Rules for Buying My Teenage Daughter": After Peter Griffin forgets to bring his wallet to Mort Goldman's pharmacy, Mort offers to open him a tab at the store. Peter, being Peter, proceeds to buy all manner of ridiculous things, including eight cases of syrup of ipecac (leading to a collective Vomit Indiscretion Shot) and an entire rack of greeting cards, until he ends up owing Mort $34k. Mort agrees to cancel the tab if Meg will go on a date with his son Neil.
    • Peter gets a secret credit card so he can buy things without Lois knowing, on the advice of his friends who also have secret cards for the same reason. Though with Peter being Peter, he acts likes it's free money and goes on a ridiculous spending spree, which quickly tips off Lois to the existence of the card rather quickly.
  • Girl Stuff Boy Stuff did this one too... with tech-nerd Simon. Hanna, who was basically The Ditz, summed up the basic aesop.
  • The Goofy cartoon How to Take a Vacation has Goofy financing his vacation on a credit card, since he'd never make enough money on his current job of washing dishes. Naturally, his card runs out at a restaurant, and he has to pay it off washing dishes.
  • King of the Hill:
    • Bobby, thanks to a combination of his own terrible math and his father Hank's thrifty ways, comes to the mistaken conclusion that Hank is a rich miser. He then "borrows" Hank's emergency credit card and goes shopping, hoping that it'll convince Hank to loosen up and spend more, but he gets caught pretty quickly. Bobby was unaware that Hank's supposed $1,000 salary was really an annual bonus, which was used to pay off almost all the credit card debt.
    • In an episode, Luanne is scolded for her high credit card bills due to trying to live beyond her means, so she and Peggy join a roller derby to help pay them off. They form their own team after breaking up with their manager over pay disputes and end up getting further into debt when they use borrowed money to try to improve their team.
  • The Lilo & Stitch: The Series episode "Yapper" involved Pleakley getting not one, but twenty-eight credit cards.
    Pleakley: And I'm not even a citizen! Is this a great planet or what?
  • Phineas and Ferb: In "Bowl-A-Rama Drama", when Candace decided to take Phineas and Ferb's giant bowling ball to their parents so she could finally bust the boys, she imagined their parents would reward her by allowing her unlimited use of Lawrence's credit card: "You have our permission to ruin us financially!"
  • The Proud Family: In the episode "Don't Leave Home Without It," Trudy gives Penny a credit card for school and clothing expenses only. Of course, she and her friends abuse it to the point of running out of credit. Penny ends up returning all the items she bought to get back her credit and then destroys the card. The episode is made interesting by having the credit card talk — yes, you read that right. Steve Harvey was the credit card's voice, in an obvious parody of Audrey II from Little Shop of Horrors. At the end of the episode, the card comes back to life and finds its way to Dijonay, making itself hers instead, and we all know how very irresponsible Dijonay tends to be.
  • This is the focus of "Extra Credit", an episode of The Replacements. Riley accidentally maxes out her mother's credit card on unicorn merchandise, and must think of a way to raise enough money to pay her back.
  • Rocko's Modern Life, "Who Gives A Buck": Rocko gets a credit card and goes out shopping for a new dog bowl for Spunky. He ends up getting more than a bit carried away... After everything gets repossessed (including many things Rocko owned before), Heifer ends up selling one of his internal organs to pay for the dog bowl they originally got the card for.
  • In an episode of Sealab 2021, Captain Murphy runs up massive credit card debts; he is a complete idiot, after all, and quite possibly insane. In order to pay off his debts, he assists Sparks in killing off the rest of the crew to collect the ensuing insurance money. They least until Sparks and Murphy die as well.
  • The Simpsons:
    • "The Canine Mutiny", where Bart gets a credit card issued to the family dog (again the dog...) and goes on a spending spree — including buying a much more impressive dog. When the repo men come, he convinces them that Santa's Little Helper is the dog they want, but eventually realizes the error of his ways.
    • Parodied in "Catch 'Em If You Can" where, in an attempt to have a vacation without the kids, Homer and Marge travel across the world. Bart and Lisa pursue them using Rod Flanders' card along with Homer and Marge fleeing with Ned's. Both card owners are naturally shocked to receive their next statements.
  • In South Park's "Margaritaville", Kyle shows everyone how easy it is to get a credit card, showing that even he was able to get one. Averted as despite Kyle using it heavily, he did so to pay off all the debts in town so the people would start shopping again. And of course, all the credit goes to... Barack Obama.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants once did this in "Whale of a Birthday", where he used a credit card to buy buttloads of expensive gifts for Pearl's 16th birthday. However, since the card actually belonged to her father, Mr. Krabs, he's the one who gets the gigantic bill, not SpongeBob. Ironically, Krabs was the one who gave it to him in the first place and ordered him to follow Pearl around to see what she liked, assuming SpongeBob would just get one present. It somewhat worked out for the best since SpongeBob showing up with all the presents is what saves Pearl's birthday. Considering how unbelievably cheap Krabs was being (stale popcorn, the cake made of cardboard and covered with meringue to pass for a real one, a life-size statue of Pearl made of Krabby Patties, using Squidward as the entertainment), even when Pearl pleaded with him to make more of an effort for her sweet sixteen, it's a likewise Laser-Guided Karma.
  • Yin Yang Yo!: After realizing they don't get an allowance, Yin and Yang get credit cards from a disguised Ultimoose, who intends to put them into a severe debt that can only be paid off by serving the Night Master. Predictably, Yin and Yang only take six hours to max out their respective cards, but Yin finds a loophole that allows them to get out of debt by returning all the stuff they brought within a time limit.

    Real Life 
  • This is one of the reasons why many people prefer debit cards, where you can only spend the money actually in your account, and secured credit cards (which work in more-or-less the same way, except the money is in a special account, not a checking account) to regular credit cards. This was especially true in the years following the 2007-08 financial crisis, which was blamed on banks overextending credit to subprime borrowers.
    • Also the main reason, why especially in Germany, cash is still preferred over any form of electronic payment.
  • The reason a number of entries involve cards sent to dogs is that this does happen in real life, with a particular spate of headlines in the '90s prompting the easy tie-in.
  • Back when George W. Bush was president, he referenced this trope when he accused Congress of spending money "like a teenager with a new credit card."
  • Games which make heavy use of Microtransactions have left quite a few people with massive credit card bills, sometimes spending tens of thousands of dollars on one game. It's particularly problematic with Loot Boxes, which have been found to produce psychological effects disturbingly similar to gambling addiction. A number of governments have regulated the practice (or at least looked into it) for that reason.
  • Credit cards tend to charge high interest rates, so if you carry a balance from month to month instead of paying off the statement balance, your debt can balloon to insurmountable levels if you only make the minimum payment, unless you have a zero interest introductory offer. The interest on a balance is computed daily, which can add up, while you typically have a grace period of several interest-free weeks before the bill is due if you pay it off every month. And then if you exceed your credit limit, you'll pay a fee on top of that. It gets worse if you withdraw a cash advance, as not only are you charged a higher rate than for ordinary purchases, you're charged interest immediately rather than when the statement arrives.
  • People with bipolar disorder often go on large spending sprees while in a manic phase, so this can result in big credit card bills.
  • When bank-issued credit cards with revolving credit that could be used anywhere were first introduced in the late 1950s, banks would simply send working cards to people in the mail without any credit checks. This naturally caused a lot of real-life instances of this trope to play out, and the practice was banned under U.S. federal law by the Unsolicited Credit Card Act of 1970. After that, people had to actively apply for credit cards if they wanted them.


Video Example(s):



Bowser Jr. buys lots of expensive stuff with his new credit card. We all know how it's going to go in the end...

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Main / CreditCardPlot

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