To be honest, there’s only two reasons I’ve ever wanted a credit card. To travel easier, and for my car.
The first is pretty self explanatory. I’ve never been able to truly understand people who don’t like travel. How can you not want to see new places and cultures? What does that even mean? How can you watch a movie and not want to see the canals of Amsterdam, or the headiness of Havana, or the beauty of the Kalahari in real life? My cousin Tony is one of those guys. He’s the ‘I’m ok if I do and ok if I don’t’ type. Trust me, we’re working on him. Every day.
The second reason is maybe a little harder to explain. Mostly because, like a doting and annoying parent, I believe my car is no ordinary car. It’s the BEST car. Yes, I said parent. How do I describe my relationship with my car?
So generally, I get attached to inanimate objects. I don’t know if it is because a lot of my formative years were spent as an only child, and in a foreign country, and so I basically created my own joys, and when I wasn’t in school, my own friends. I name all my teddy bears, laptops and flash disks. My bed, to this day, is as important to me as a living breathing thing is. Like a friend with the best hugs. My bed is legit one of the places I feel safest in. So you can imagine what happened when, a couple of years ago, I got my first car. Aside from spending weeks trying to figure out what name would be perfect, I also got extremely invested in his running smoothly. Here’s the thing though, and any car owner will tell you right off the bat, having a car is like having a child. Not in the carrying on your legacy and diaper changing type of way, but in the way my other cousin Ian describes it – it’s like having a hole in your wallet. A big hole. Cars need money. And that’s why I wanted a credit card.
You see, from the get, my car needed more than just a little TLC. The engine was busted so I had to get a new one. The one I got wasn’t the right type for this model. Then the shock absorbers had to be replaced, and the tyres, because this stud hadn’t seen any action in two years. And then there was the throttle…I’m going to say, metre? And so on, and so forth. But finally, when I got over my fear of driving (this is a whole different post about driving school for another day) and got behind the steering wheel, there was an indescribable connection to this trusty piece of fluid, purring machinery whom I eventually dubbed SB.
Therein lay the catch. I’m a freelancer, so bank loans aren’t really an option for me, you see? And because of that, neither are unsecured – or barely secured – credit cards. That was out of the picture. You can only ask people so many times, and the way my pride is set up, I would have to be practically decapitated for me to cross that particular line often. So where was I going to get money to regularly service my car, or take care of it in the case of an emergency, without having to fill in endless forms about why I’m asking for money that I don’t have but I’ll pay back?
M-Shwari, of course. Arguably one of Safaricom’s best innovations yet. An argument you will only appreciate when you one day (God forbid) find yourself so broke, even your reality checks bounce, and you need cash before yesterday.
My favourite thing about M-Shwari is that I don’t have to answer any questions. When you’re asking your friends for money, more often than not, there’s a certain dynamic involved. You feel obligated to ask a certain way, to talk a certain way. You know what I mean. Because you’re the one who wants something. It’s like if you owe me money, I don’t want to see you even breathing near a fancy restaurant, hehe. So I put the same restrictions on myself, basically. But if the process of asking is simply entering the PIN on your phone, then that dynamic is greatly changed. There’s no pressure with M-Shwari. Kwanza that pressure from family – it’s even worse. The questions always come. What are you going to do with it? Why didn’t you save? Why is your car so old? Why aren’t you married? But why is Baba’s swearing in taking so long? And so on, and so forth. It can be pretty numbing, really. So the fact that all I need to do is activate my menu, and then ask for whatever my limit is, no frills, no spills, is pretty awesome.
Much like a parent, every time my car coughs, I run to the garage. The mec I go to isn’t a cheap one (insert crying emoji) but he’s the only one who touches my car. Why? Because once he fixes something, I never have to come back again for it. I will never be on a road trip and my car decides to act up – whether it is driving to Rusinga for the Rusinga Festival, or a sudden decision to go to Mombasa because someone is being paid a lot of money to lip sync. That kind of (blessed) assurance costs money, fam. Nowadays, before the mec comes to look at my car, he asks me, not even kwa ubaya, ‘Do you have money?’ At which point I check my loan limit so I know how much I can afford to take out and pay back next month. It’s nice to have a mec in your life who understands.
That’s how I started building up my credit rating, so to speak. Borrowing with M-Shwari, using my Lock Savings and stuff, so that that limit grows and I don’t have to worry about cash if my radiator busts a leak on Lenana Road and I have no idea what’s going on – which has happened before and I thought I was going to explode. (Although I knew SB wouldn’t explode on me. We’re just in tune like that.) That’s right, credit ratings, not because of my emergency fund or an adult thing like a mortgage, but so that I could take care of the only baby I’m ever planning to have, ha.
I’d rather ask Safaricom, than my bank, because on top of all those reasons…no one like queues.