Dear J.T. & Dale: I just got a promotion that involves some traveling. Standard procedure is that I pay my travel expenses and get reimbursed at the end of the month. I have only one credit card, with $2,000 credit available on it. By my guesstimation, this trip will cost me at least $3,000. I’m embarrassed to tell my manager that I can’t afford to do this. What should I do? – Justin
DALE: Don’t be embarrassed. Most people would have the same problem. The National Bureau of Economic Research published a paper last year on “financially fragile households” that looked at the ability to come up with $2,000 in 30 days. Nearly half of Americans could either not come up with the money at all, or could do so only by pawning possessions or using payday loans. And that was $2,000.
So I’m confident that a majority of people would face the same shortfall you’re facing. (By the way, the term “fragile” is apt – a major car repair or even a minor medical emergency could cost $2,000 or more. Meaning that most Americans are headed for a personal “fiscal cliff.”)
J.T.: What you’re describing, Justin, happened to me years ago, when I was working for a startup company. I was just 25 years old and was assigned to start traveling to deliver training sessions. As I went to book my first flight and hotel, I quickly realized that my credit card didn’t have that kind of credit limit. I went to my boss, who encouraged me to contact my credit-card company to see how I could go about raising my credit limit.
He also gave me a tip to make sure I was in a reward program, because I was going to get to keep all the points I earned on the card. In the meantime, he used his card for the first month of my travel, until I could cover it on my own. If you share your situation with the company, I guarantee they’ll either get you a corporate card (they’ll want the points!) or take care of the major expenses internally.
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