Capital One: Getting Heard

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I moved to New York City on August 30th, 2005. There was a specific voice teacher I wanted to study with and I moved mountains to make it happen (as singers do, oy!); I transferred mid-Bachelor’s degree, from my music school in Toronto to the one in New York where she taught. Being from Ottawa, Canada, a medium-sized city with a small-town vibe, it was a MASSIVE adjustment for me. I spent the first 6 months super homesick and feeling like a fish out of water. What I now understand as New Yorkers just being no-frills and to the point, I then saw as unfriendly and cold. Beyond it being The Big Apple, it was a different country. 

Only an hour and fifteen minute flight from home but I had never felt so “foreign” in my life. It felt like every basic thing was a struggle. I didn't have a green card so I couldn't legally work. It was mind-blowingly hard to get an apartment. (Even if I could find a little pad I liked within my budget, I’d need a guarantor to secure it. My parents were happy to serve as my guarantors but Canadian guarantors were no bueno. When my girlfriend and future bridesmaid’s California-based mother generously offered to be my guarantor, I was rejected as it turns out most landlords require a guarantor in the Tri-State area.) I struggled to obtain a social security number. But the seemingly simplest thing I desperately needed but couldn’t get is what blew me away the most: no one would give me a credit card. Though my credit standing in Canada was good, I had no American credit—I didn't exist, as far as the credit companies were concerned—which I was told was even worse than having bad credit. I just needed to be heard, to be given a chance with even the smallest credit limit, to gradually build my standing in the US. This was sadly a lot harder to achieve than you'd think. 

 My itty bitty NYC studio apartment from that time. I eventually got approved for my own place thanks to my mom’s NJ-based friend who SO kindly agreed to serve as my guarantor. If it looks like the whole place was crooked, that’s because it was. (If you placed a pen along the fireplace wall, it would roll to the other side!) Friends stayed over all the time, hence the futon. I decorated my working fireplace—the crown jewel of the space despite the fact that when it rained, it’d literally rain straight through, into the apartment—with decals from the Nintendo store. :)

My itty bitty NYC studio apartment from that time. I eventually got approved for my own place thanks to my mom’s NJ-based friend who SO kindly agreed to serve as my guarantor. If it looks like the whole place was crooked, that’s because it was. (If you placed a pen along the fireplace wall, it would roll to the other side!) Friends stayed over all the time, hence the futon. I decorated my working fireplace—the crown jewel of the space despite the fact that when it rained, it’d literally rain straight through, into the apartment—with decals from the Nintendo store. :)

Someone told me that the easiest way to get a “starter” credit card would be at Macy's. It would be a store card only, not usable anywhere else, and with a measly $100 limit. But it would be that first and most essential building block. One of my most distinct early New York memories is going to the Herald Square Macy’s, being rejected for that very $100 Macy's credit card at the checkout counter, feeling humiliated, and crying in the middle of the shoe department. I called my mother, but of course she couldn’t help me and only felt as helpless as I did.

After countless rejection letters, it was Capital One that finally took a chance on me, despite my having zero credit and a few months-old SSN (I worked part-time in my school’s offices to obtain it). Getting that simple approval letter and little plastic card in the mail felt like the universe, via Capital One, crying out to me, “WE HEAR YOU!” That was on December 29th, 2006, well over a year after I moved to the country. Yes, I remember the date, so momentous was that day for me!

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12 years later, with diligence and working my butt off, I now have “excellent” credit as of writing this! 💪🏻This lends to long-term, real life milestones, far beyond credit cards themselves. Capital One gave me the opportunity to start small and gradually build up my credit, and in a very real sense, my life here.

Today, I have several credit cards and have had 5 different Capital One cards over the years as my credit has improved. Though my credit today allows me approval for almost any card I’d like, I still have and use my Capital One Venture card. First of all, I just really like the card. (2 points for every dollar for an annual fee of $95? Yes, please.) But truly, at a very frustrating time when I felt foreign, helpless, and like I would never feel at home in this country, Capital One heard me. I will always have a soft spot for this bank (well, as soft a spot as anyone can have for a bank!) for making me feel like a human being and not the sum of whatever numbers are affiliated with my name.

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Why am I sharing this story? Capital One is currently running a campaign called “Listen In” that feels very relevant right now. In a time when we’re all so consumed by our phones, it feels like everyone’s living in a bubble of self absorption. Content is deemed successful by how many “likes” it gets, not by its message. Honestly, this is something I think about a lot and that depresses me deeply. My biggest social gripes that I vent to Andy about are how it seems fewer and fewer people are curious about anyone or anything but themselves. No one asks questions anymore. Sometimes on the subway I sit back and just take stock of how many people are on their phones. (Though I’m not pretending I’m not that person sometimes!) We all have those friends who seem to think mid-conversation with you is an appropriate time to check their DMs.

Capital One did a “Listen In” survey that revealed nearly 1 in 5 Americans (18%) can’t remember the last time someone was completely focused on listening to them, and more than half (51%) of Americans feel they don’t often experience active listening from their friends, family members or colleagues. Turns out, when it comes to banks, people’s beef has little to do with actual money and more to do with the fact that they don’t feel their needs are being listened to. That sounds like a microcosm for life right now, so kudos to Capital One for prioritizing this and making a concerted effort to actually hear its customers and turn that into action by offering programs like Money Coaching and Money Workshops (“Talk money with your honey” anyone?). It’s a ginormous and ambitious task, to be sure, but I for one appreciate the sentiment and think if more people (let alone corporations) made that effort, we’d all be better off.

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SHOP THE POST

LOOK 1: ZARA COAT WITH CABLE KNIT IN ECRU | CLUB MONACO “JULIE” TURTLENECK IN LEOPARD PRINT [OLD - A MEDIUM IS STIILL AVAILABLE HERE - SIMILAR] | ANNE KLEIN “PINDOT” PRINTED SKINNY PANTS | CHRISTIAN LOUBOUTIN “BARRY 45” PATENT TASSEL MULE [LOOK FOR LESS] | BAUBLEBAR “ELLE” CRYSTAL STUDS

LOOK 2: MANGO “BOW” LONG JUMPSUIT | GUCCI “MARMONT GG” BELT | GOYARD “BELLECHASSE PM” TOTE

 

PHOTOGRAPHY

KEVIN TUN

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This blog post was sponsored by Capital One. All thoughts and opinions are my own!

My New York friends: Capital One is bringing its “Listen In” campaign to several cities, and NYC is one of them! There’ll be live entertainment from indie band AJR and interactive “listening” experiences. To experience the NYC event on October 30th, watch the live stream (ListenInNYC.FORA.TV). Learn more about the “Listen In” campaign by visiting capitalone.com/listen.

By making it this far in my “listening story”, you too have essentially listened to me! THANK YOU.

Share own stories and thoughts with me in the comments below. I promise to listen in. :)

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