Saturday, January 3, 2009

Credit Cards

A couple of years ago when I got divorced and moved out of my house, I had to get used to a new bill paying paradigm. Once I put together a spread-sheet of my debts I was okay. For the first couple of months I wasn’t quite right with payment schedules.

I paid an account I had with Chase Bank late twice. My interest rate jumped from 13%to 24%.

I called them and they told me if I paid on time for 6 months the rate would go back down. 8 months later I remembered this and checked my account. It had jumped to 33%. When I called they said if I let them automatically access my bank account they would drop it to 24%. I told them I wasn’t sure how much I’d pay every month and declined.

I asked how they could operate this way in good conscience. Their rep assured me they could.

This behavior is part of a culture of deregulation that has pervaded corporate America.

A Supreme Court decision in 1978, Marquette vs. First Omaha Service Corp, made it possible for usury laws from the issuing state to be the rule. It didn’t matter what the rules were for the customer’s state. The big banks all moved to South Dakota and Delaware and here we are.

During this financial crisis the banks are going through, I heard one banker state that the interest they could charge each other could hit 10%. He likened this to the days of loan sharks. This is a total disconnect as far as I’m concerned when they’re charging me 33%!

You can’t blame the banks. Their sole purpose is making money, not being good corporate citizens. We have to impose regulations. They need laws as much as the rest of us. Greed is not capable of policing itself.

I’ve always found politics a distraction from the real issues in my life. Unfortunately we all have to start paying attention and start doing a little homework.

The banks only pay 1-3% for the money they lend. Even if you call and get them to drop your rates from 20 to 15% it’s a rip off. We need to get away from them. I read somewhere on line that if 10% of us would change our credit habits, the banks would really feel it and respond. Who knows?

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