May 15, 2009

The Mercado Report:

Tired of using credit cards

Por Humberto Caspa

Wall Street groups are really forgetful. Their greed for easy cash has gotten the country upside down, on the verge of an economic calamity, left millions of workers without jobs and on the fringe of desperation. Their behavior has not changed a bit. They continue to throw stones at Americans taxpayers. This time credit cards users are their new victims.

Well documented sources show that some credit-card companies have altered interest rates arbitrarily without previously notifying cardholders –in writing or verbally— the status of their new interest rates. In some cases, APRs went up more than 100% , making it almost impossible for some people to come up with the minimum payment.

A few weeks ago, President Barack Obama gathered with chief executives of the credit-card industry to iron out some issues raised by the public. At the meeting, the CIOs were all ears. They listened attentively, shared ideas with the President, and even showed some commitment to solve the problems.

However, when they went back to their headquarters, they tucked Obama’s recommendations into a plastic bag and toss it into a trash bin. What they heard in the White House went in one ear, and right out the other. This only tell us how credit card companies are willing to break the rules as long as they are able to increase the volume of their profits.

At a smallest mistake, your interest rate can suffer a major increase. Whether you have an excellent or poor credit standing doesn’t matter to them. Mistakes are mistakes they say. Some folks who have been diligent to sending out their monthly payments, and for some unfortunate reason –bill didn’t get home; the damn envelope got mixed with the junk mail and got damped in the trash— they didn’t send their last bill on time, they have seen their low interest rates evaporate in a matter of days. Now not only do they have to pay late penalties, but also face new monstrous interest rates.

For instance, someone holding a Washington Mutual credit card (now Chase Bank) saw his APR go from 13% to 30% because of an unintended/human mistake. The card company didn’t want to hear any explanations. Their ears were shut. This person agreed to pay the $39 penalty fee, but also requested to have his previous interest rate to be reinstated the following month. The company said no.

If convincing credit card companies to make changes is a problem, speaking with a customer service assistant is a nightmarish experience. The staff on the other side usually lives in a country located on the other side of the Atlantic or the Pacific. If they are not answering the telephone from the Philippines they are doing it from India. They rarely have the skills or professionalism to handle hard-pressed issues. Worse of all, they don’t have the power to adjust interest rates. Then, why call? Why get irritated?

The credit car issue has gotten out of hand. Since the government has neither the desire nor the energy to fix the problem, we must have serious thoughts about solving it ourselves altogether. Tearing those damned credit cards, and begin using cash doesn’t sound a bad idea.

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