Presidential Plastic: Which Credit Cards Do They Carry?

In case you hadn't noticed, there's a presidential election right around the corner and there's some lively discussion on a host of issues. Voters are inundated with information about the candidates, their families, personal spending records, and little things like unemployment, oil dependency and foreign policy.

At, we decided to take a look at what we're really all wondering: what credit cards might they -- or should they -- each have? While we can't be sure which cards the main players in the 2012 presidential campaign have in their wallets and handbags, that doesn't mean we can't have some fun and take a guess.

 President Barack Obama

The only credit card we know our current head of state carries is the metaphorical corporate one for U.S.A. Inc. Just like an American Express card, it comes without preset spending limits. However, just like an American Express card, that doesn't mean you can spend as much as you want on it.

Credit counselors disagree about who's to blame for the card's current balance, which was $15.23 trillion back in January. Some say GEORGE W. BUSH, CARDMEMBER SINCE 2001, EXP: 01/09; others BARACK H. OBAMA, CARDMEMBER SINCE 2009. Either way, nobody's dared for some time to call the customer service call center, now located in Beijing, in case they're told to cut up the card.

But since that one doesn't spend so well at Best Buy, we think that the President probably has a soft spot in his heart and a spot in his wallet for the Harvard Alumni Association World MasterCard.

Governor Mitt Romney

The card of choice for plutocrats with nine-figure fortunes is very definitely the American Express Centurion (a.k.a. "Black") card. AmEx is notoriously tight-lipped about this invitation-only product, but according to cardholders it comes with a $5,000 set-up charge, and a $2,500 annual fee and a minimum annual spend of $250,000.

American Express won't get into specifics about the deals, discounts, perks and privileges that could justify such charges, but some believe that there have in the past been some irresistible offers, including one on car elevators, and another that was a buy-one-get-one-free promotion on Cadillacs. More recently, there may have been a deep discount on spray tans, though only in the darkest mahogany shade.

 Vice President Joe Biden

Vice President Biden has always wanted a credit card. Unfortunately, he's never had one. That's because he's yet to fill in an application without making a major gaffe partway through. So far, all his forms have ended up in the trash.

However, we're pretty sure that if he had one, it'd be The Amtrak Guest Rewards MasterCard. The Vice President has boasted that he took over 7,000 round trips between Delaware and Washington, D.C. during his 36 years in the Senate. He also shows his appreciation of Amtrak employees with an annual Christmas party. If he pays for the party with his card, he could use the points for a business-class upgrade!

 Congressman Paul Ryan

Rep. Ryan doesn't believe in credit card debt, but he has a plan for those who are struggling with it. Unfortunately, roughly half of experts are totally convinced that this plan will only make things worse.

As a man with his eye set firmly on President of the U.S. Senate, Mr. Ryan applied for a Capitol One card soon after his nomination. He was understandably devastated when the plastic turned up, and he noticed that there are two a's in Capital One. Still, he consoled himself with the thought that he could soon find himself just a heartbeat away from being numero uno in the nation's capital.

 First Lady Michelle Obama

It must be tough getting by on a presidential salary of just $400,000 a year (plus $50,000 in non-taxable expenses), but somehow Mrs. Obama manages to pull it off. How? Well, to start with, one of her first acts on moving to D.C. was to dig up part of the White House's famed South Lawn to plant a kitchen garden. Have you seen the price of peas lately?

Then there is her well-known affection for Target stores. During the 2008 election campaign, she remarked: "I'm more of a Target shopper." And, in September 2011, she spent 30 minutes wheeling her cart around the Target outlet in Alexandria, Va. Luckily, nobody except the check-out operator recognized her. Why should they, with her sunglasses, baseball cap, photographers and Secret Service detail?

Anyway, the First Lady is a Target kinda gal, so she surely must have a Target REDcard® credit card. After all, that 5 percent off all Target purchases comes in handy when you're on a budget.

Mrs. Ann Romney

You may think that, with her husband's fortune estimated at up to $250 million, Mrs. Romney would have little need for credit cards. But she may choose to have one, simply to wave the flag.

And she could do so literally with the USAA Rate Advantage MasterCard®, which comes with Old Glory emblazoned across its front. As importantly, carrying one shows support for the military, something that every politician and his or her spouse wants to do.

Now, the organization's website says that "USAA membership is a privilege earned by those in uniform," which is a little awkward given that her husband, while a vocal supporter of the Vietnam war, had four draft deferments that allowed him to escape any military service at all. But, were the Governor to win in November, it's hard to see the USAA turning down an application from the Commander in chief's wife.

Credit card use might mean something a little different for these folks than for the rest of the U.S. It's hard to imagine any of them hunched after midnight over the kitchen table, stressing out over their card statements, and juggling the family budget to make minimum payments. But it's easy to wish that, just occasionally, they'd have to. Regardless who wins the election this November, they'll have a long ways to go to help Americans feel better about their finances.



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