This engaging, practical consumer credit guide emphasizes a zero-interest technique that may make some readers (and banks) a bit apprehensive.
Berman, a consumer credit expert and credit counselor, positions his book differently than the typical riffs on consumer credit. He focuses on a self-developed formula for “how to legally pay 0% interest on the money you owe & eliminate your debt in a fraction of the time”; hence the book’s title, a somewhat arcane reference to the controversial 1954 erotic novel, The Story of O. For some consumers, Berman’s method may be too good to be true: It involves applying specifically for credit cards that offer zero-interest balance transfers for a period of time, then transferring high-interest debt to those credit card accounts for the duration of the zero-interest offer. Reporting that his father’s reaction was that the scheme “amounted to ‘gaming the system’ and was therefore unethical,” Berman devotes several paragraphs to justifying zero-interest balance transfers. Part of the author’s rationale is that financial institutions have been gaming the consumer for years—now it’s the consumers’ turn. The crafty consumer who doesn’t disallow this concept on ethical grounds may indeed find that it works; yet it’s sure to create discomfort among others and, no doubt, many bank executives. Too bad, since zero-interest balance transfer, despite being the book’s hook, is really just a small part of what Berman covers. The rest of the book is, in fact, exceedingly useful. Berman offers an informed overview of the credit system in layman’s language; savvy advice on how to obtain credit scores, repair bad credit and build good credit; and a sensible perspective on credit cards. “[C]redit,” Berman writes, “is nothing more than a tool for achieving financial objectives. It can be handled correctly or incorrectly, just as the same hammer that can be used to build can be used to destroy.” His tips for making and saving money are inventive, and his observations about bankruptcy and foreclosure are helpful and wise.
A highly readable book likely to help consumers—as long as they approach the author’s primary debt-busting tool with eyes wide open.