Using credit wisely

- Estela Banzon-De La Paz () - May 22, 2006 - 12:00am
Spending has never been so easy for the ordinary consumer with the advent of credit cards. Items or goods which ordinarily one would save up for months or even years to buy are now easily accessible with the swipe of a card. But along with such a convenience is the possibility of also plunging oneself into insurmountable debts.

Realizing this dire possibility, Citigroup has come up with a Financial Education Program for its clients. In the Philippines, Citibank has launched its own Use Credit Wisely Program through its website www.usecreditwisely.citibank.com.ph.

"The best customer is an informed consumer," said Jeannette Ng-Lim, Citibank assistant vice-president. She explained that Citibank is not only interested in having a business but in also making sure their clients get the most out of their borrowings and spending. After all, a happy customer is most likely to stay with the company that gives it the most advantage.

As such, Lim said they went a step further by not only having an English version of their Use Credit Wisely website but also having a Filipino version called "Gamiting Mabuti ang Kredit." Through this website, she said, Citibank can now reach the masses.

Lim said the results have so far, been heartwarming as there are a lot of positive comments and inquiries coming from overseas Filipino workers from as far as the Middle East.

The Filipino website has helped these overseas workers plan their spending and borrowing for themselves and their families who are in the Philippines.

In fact, there are a lot of financial education tips that can be learned from the website. One of which is computing of one’s debt ratio.

In the website, it was explained that the debt ratio shows how much you owe compared with how much you earn. The lower the debt ratio, the more you have left over to save or spend on other things. Many experts recommend that no more than 15 percent to 20 percent of your monthly household take-home pay should be used to pay debts and loans or credit card payments. The debt ratio is computed by getting the amount needed to repay debts and then dividing this with the take-home pay.

Lim said the project to translate the English version into Filipino seemed daunting at first, especially when there are technical details such as the debt ratio. However, with the help of National Artist for Literature Virgilio Almario, the Filipino translation is now so easy to understand. The debt ratio was simply translated as "Proporsyon ng Utang."

Other featured pages in the website include Alamin ang mga Tuntunin which gives information on all things about credit cards and how it works. There’s also a section on Ingatan ang Paggastos wherein there are tips on how to handle financial problems during hard times such as disability or separation of married couples.

It was the first website project of Almario who is currently the Dean of College of Arts and Letters in the University of the Philippines. "I’ve done a number of translation and editing projects but mostly for literary works. I do this to enrich the literary experience in Filipino and to offer the best models of literature to readers and students of Filipino. The Use Credit Wisely website, however, presented me an opportunity to try my hand at corporate communications. I hope the public will find it relevant."

With the proliferation of credit cards as the means for purchasing of goods or getting loans not only by the elite but even by an ordinary consumer, the Filipino version of using credit wisely will definitely give the Filipino consumer the necessary education to make credit work for them and not against them.
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