Posts on Credit Cards
Posts on how to use credit cards and avoid getting caught in credit card traps.
Highlighted posts: Sneaky Fees - Poor Customer Service: Discover Card - Don't Let the Credit Card Companies Play You for a Fool - Families Shouldn’t Finance Everyday Purchases on Credit
Related: How to Use Credit Card And Avoid Fees
As I have said, the behavior (driven by the poor ethical standards of the “leaders” of our financial institution) of our financial institutions means, as a a customer, you have to be on guard for their tactics to trick you out of your money. Essentially you have to expect them to behave like a pickpockets and be on guard against them at all times. This is an extremely sad state of affairs: that the ethical failings of such critically important players in our economy are so widespread, long-lasting and accepted. However, as we have seen, they profit from this behavior and their long track record of such behavior provides evidence they will continue acting in this way.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. found that Discover Financial Services telemarketers often talked faster when explaining fees and terms as they pitched the services, leading customers to think there was no additional fee, the regulators said Monday.
It is very good to see the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau taking action to protect the consumers from the financial institutions continued efforts to evade the law and take a little bit from millions of consumers. This type of behavior has been tolerated previously, and should never have been. The financial institutions strategy to take small amounts from millions of people was a wise way of dealing with the tendency of law enforcement to ignore such “small infractions” – they didn’t seem to bother seeing that taking small amounts from millions of people results in hundreds of millions of dollars in ill gotten gains.
Far too much of the bad practices are continuing. And when they are caught the consequences are far too small (which is why they keep behaving unethically). Discover is only being charged $14 million in civil penalties for their lapses (and has to return $200 million it took unfairly).
It is good to have police to try and catch literal pickpockets. And it is good to have the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to catch financial institutions that take far more than pickpockets can dream of away from the wallets of consumers.
Related: Capital One Bank Agrees to Refund $150 Million to 2 Million Customers and Pay $60 Million in Fines – Very Bad Customer Service from Discover Card – Credit Card Regulation Has Reduced Abuse By Banks – Continued Credit Card Company Customer Dis-Service – I Strongly Support the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
Sadly, Congress refused to allow the person that should have headed to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) to do so: Elizabeth Warren. If we are lucky she will be joining congress as the new senator from Massachusetts to reduce the amount of big donnor favoritism that prevails there now. That attitude will still prevail, she will just be one voice standing against the many bought and paid for politicians we keep sending back to Washington (there are a couple now, but they are vastly outnumbered).
Even with congressional attempts to stop the CFPB from being able to enforce laws against their big donnors, the CFPB has announced their first public enforcement action: an order requiring Capital One Bank to refund approximately $140 million to two million customers and pay an additional $25 million penalty. This is a good, small step that is helping creating a rule of law instead of a rule of those capturing regulators and giving lots of cash to politicians. But it is a very small step. The system is still mainly about captured regulators and giving lots of cash to politicians.
This action results from a CFPB examination that identified deceptive marketing tactics used by Capital One’s vendors to pressure or mislead consumers into paying for add-on products such as payment protection and credit monitoring when they activated their credit cards.
“Today’s action puts $140 million back in the pockets of two million Capital One customers who were pressured or misled into buying credit card products they didn’t understand, didn’t want, or in some cases, couldn’t even use,” said CFPB Director Richard Cordray. “We are putting companies on notice that these deceptive practices are against the law and will not be tolerated.”
Consumers with low credit scores or low credit limits were offered these products by Capital One’s call-center vendors when they called to have their new credit cards activated. As part of the high-pressure tactics Capital One representatives used to sell these add-on products, consumers were:
- Misled about the benefits of the products: Consumers were sometimes led to believe that the product would improve their credit scores and help them increase the credit limit on their Capital One credit card.
- Deceived about the nature of the products: Consumers were not always told that buying the products was optional. In other cases, consumers were wrongly told they were required to purchase the product in order to receive full information about it, but that they could cancel the product if they were not satisfied. Many of these consumers later had difficulty canceling when they called to do so.
- Misinformed about cost of the products: Consumers were sometimes led to believe that they would be enrolling in a free product rather than making a purchase.
- Enrolled without their consent: Some call center vendors processed the add-on product purchases without the consumer’s consent. Consumers were then automatically billed for the product and often had trouble cancelling the product when they called to do so.
One of the less obvious costs of a poor credit rating these days is large companies see you as someone to take advantage of. They often target those with poor credit for extremely lousy deals that they wouldn’t try to sell to those with good credit. The presumption, I would imagine, is someone able to maintain a good credit rating is much less likely fall for our lousy deals.
Related: Protect Yourself from Credit Card Fraud (facilitated by financial institutions) – Anti-Market Policies from Our Talking Head and Political Class – Banks Hope they Paid Politicians Enough to Protect Billions in Excessive Fees
Residential real estate delinquency rates increased in the first half of 2011 in the USA. Other debt delinquency rates decreased. Credit card delinquency rates have actually reached a 17 year low.
While the job market remains poor and the serious long term problems created by governments spending beyond their means (for decades) and allowing too big to fail institutions to destroy economic wealth and create great risk for world economic stability the USA economy does exhibit positive signs. The economy continues to grow – slowly but still growing. And the reduction in delinquency rates is a good sign. Though the residential and business real estate rates are far far too high.
I have written about the importance of protecting yourself against the companies that provide you financial services. There are few (if any) industries that as systemically try to trick and deceive customers out of large amounts of money as the financial services sector does. In addition to watching them, you it also makes sense to watch your credit card charges. For some reason attorneys general let large scale financial fraud go with much less policing than petty theft by juveniles (if some kids come in and take your TV they will be in trouble, if some large bank does the same thing to all of the household goods of many people that never even were their customers criminal charges are ignored for everyone involved – one of many such examples of bad decisions by attorneys general).
Because financial fraudsters are allowed to continue without much fear of prosecution: thousands, or tens or thousands, or hundreds of thousands and then maybe something will be done, of course that is a lot of people to suffer before action is taken. For that reason we are subject to long standing schemes to take money fraudulently go on for a long time. I wouldn’t even be surprised if most companies found to have taken money that isn’t theirs are left off when they refund money to those people that caught them and that is seen as ok.
Given this state of affairs, many have discovered just sending bills to people and companies and billing your credit card for things you didn’t order is a good way to steal money. Since law enforcement is extremely lax about stopping this. It is in your interest to protect yourself.
Bill Guard is a new service to watch your credit card charges and alert you to potentially fraudulent charges. It seems like a pretty good idea. Like Google flagging spam email for you. I really would think credit card companies should do this (they do but I guess not nearly well enough – no surprise there). I don’t so much love the idea of sharing credit card info with these people. And I don’t charge much so I can review my bill easily, myself. I can imagine lots of others though have difficulty remember every charge. If so, this may well be wise.
You should review your credit reports annually (at least) to correct any errors. Also doing so can be a tool to help you spot identity theft.
The real free credit report site (for those in the USA), annualcreditreport.com, is provided by government regulation (so those that don’t believe in regulation would maybe rather use one of the sites advertising “free” credit reports). But I suggest using the government provided reports and I would suggest spreading the requests out during the year (you get 3 a year, 1 from each of the nationwide consumer credit reporting companies).
The site also has a large frequently asked question section including:
How do I request a “fraud alert” be placed on my file?
You have the right to ask that nationwide consumer credit reporting companies place “fraud alerts” in your file to let potential creditors and others know that you may be a victim of identity theft. A fraud alert can make it more difficult for someone to get credit in your name because it tells creditors to follow certain procedures to protect you. It also may delay your ability to obtain credit. You may place a fraud alert in your file by calling just one of the three nationwide consumer credit reporting companies. As soon as that agency processes your fraud alert, it will notify the other two, which then also must place fraud alerts in your file.
Where can I find out more about credit reports, my rights as a consumer, the Fair Credit Reporting Act and the FACT Act?
Please visit www.ftc.gov/credit
I strongly support Elizabeth Warren and strongly support her for to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. She would do a great deal to improve the economy of the USA. And she would do a great deal to improve the life of tens or hundreds of millions of people. We have allowed a few people to bribe our elected officials to distort markets to damage hundreds of millions and provide huge gains for a few. We need to support capitalism not crooked elites breaking capitalism to favor their allies at the expense of the economy and those who want to benefit from free markets. It is very difficult to impede the greed fueled distortions that politicians put in place to break free markets and provide huge benefits to those who pay them. Elizabeth Warren is one of the few that is knowledgeable and skillful enough to reduce the damage those people cause the economy and everyone else.
Nobody is entirely innocent; money’s promise is for most of us a siren’s call. And, as a nation, we’ve willfully scanted education in civic and financial literacy in schools at all levels. So guilt is not worth focusing on. We need instead a future practice of clear rules and tough oversight. And we need to remind ourselves that Adam Smith’s concept of an invisible hand did not contemplate that hand’s picking the pockets of the people whose individual decisions and actions, if the market works perfectly, let supply match demand.
There are few political appointments I care much about. They normally are so co-opted even if they have good ideas they can’t get anything done. Don Berwick is a great person to have lead health care reform. The system is so messed up I am skeptical he can actually get much done, but I also strongly support him.
Elizabeth Warren is excellent and wise enough to actually accomplish things even with those who will attempt to thwart and improvements in the financial system that move forward capitalism at the expense of a few nobles that are protected by political allies. I have no doubt those in power will still thwart most efforts to stop politically sanctioned distortion of markets to enrich a few people that then pay a portion of their gains to the politicians that let them ruin free markets for their own huge personal gains.
Very few political appointees make much difference. If Elizabeth Warren gets this position she will have a good chance and making a huge difference o the quality of life for hundreds of millions of people and the economy overall. That is true even though she will have to continually fight those politicians seeking to protect the anti-competitive benefits they have lavished upon those that pay them to enact policies that benefit them at the expense of everyone else.
Related: If you Can’t Explain it, You Can’t Sell It – Middle Class Families from 1970-2005 (webcast of Elizabeth Warren) – What the Financial Sector Did to Us – Politicians Again Raising Taxes On Your Children
USA consumers pay huge fees on debit cards not found in most other rich countries. Other countries provide debit cards with much cheaper fees than USA banks mandate now given their anti-competitive oligopolistic pricing power. I haven’t seen anyone (that isn’t in the pay of banks) arguing for keeping excessive fees in place. But there are lots of people being paid by the banks (including most likely, “your” representative).
David Frum, special assistant to President George Bush, is exactly right.
[banks] are lobbying hard to repeal the cap on debit card fees in advance of the July date when Dodd-Frank goes into effect… Congress is not swayed by arguments. It is swayed by clout — and on this issue, it is the banks who have the clout.
Based on that experiment, economist Robert Shapiro of Sonecon estimates that about 56% of the value of reduced swipe fees will reach the final consumer. That’s the basis for his calculation of savings of $230 per household. That’s also the basis for his further calculation that reduced swipe fees will translate into a one-time gain of 250,000 new jobs.
The new Republican House majority appropriately mistrusts government regulation. But if the financial crisis taught us anything, it should have taught that financial regulation is different from other forms of regulation. Invisible charges imposed by a financial cartel is not my idea of a free market.
The caps were part of the huge bailout taxpayers gave banks and were meant to be a partial watering down of a few of the smaller favors their bought and paid for politicians had given them over the years (as “punishment” for their misdeeds).
The chart shows the total percent of delinquent loans by commercial banks in the USA.
The second half of 2010 saw real estate, agricultural, credit card and other loan delinquencies decrease. The rates are still quite high but at least are moving in the right direction. Residential real estate delinquencies decreased 138 basis points in the second half of 2010, to 9.94%, which brought them to just below the rate at the end of 2009. In the second half of 2010, commercial real estate delinquencies decreased 77 basis points to 7.97% (which was also exactly 77 basis points less than at the end of 2009. Agricultural loan delinquencies decreased 76 basis points, to 2.55% (down 53 basis points from the end of 2009). Consumer loan delinquencies decreased, with credit card delinquencies down 90 basis points to 4.17% and other consumer loan delinquencies down 27 basis points to 3.1%. The credit card delinquency rate decreased a very impressive 219 basis points in 210.
Related: Real Estate and Consumer Loan Delinquency Rates 2000 through June 2010 – Real Estate and Consumer Loan Delinquency Rates 1998-2009 – Bond Rates Remain Low, Little Change in Late 2009 – posts with charts showing economic data
Some companies (Banks, Verizon, Comcast, credit card insurers, United, car dealers…) continually find new ways to be hostile to customers. It really is amazing people put up with their horrible practices. The latest from the fees to check bags, fees to for paying company expenses, waste your time on voice mail hell if you want to talk to us crowd is fees to pay bills using automated systems.
The customer hostility of these companies is part of their DNA. We should recognize the new attempts to fleece customers but there is no reason to be surprised by the new, ever more hostile customer behavior of these companies. There are alternatives for consumers, just find them, and support them. Some industries are dominated by customer hostile companies (which can make avoiding them hard): banks (both consumer and investment banks), credit cards, airlines, cable companies, cell phone service. Even in those industries you can find ethical companies: Southwest Airlines, many credit unions, CarMax…
And yet these guys are charging $15. I asked Chase, “How can you charge that much for an automated transaction?” They said, “Well, that’s how much we charge.” And you look at some of the other charges out there. For instance, this week Verizon Communications is introducing a new $3.50 charge if you pay your bill online, automated phone system, or to a service rep without using their recurring, automatic bill paying system.
Time Warner Cable charges $4.99 to pay by phone with a human being, but it too charges nothing to use the automated system.
“People pay for a product or service,” said Doug Heller, executive director of Consumer Watchdog, a Santa Monica advocacy group. “They shouldn’t have to pay again just for the right to pay them.”
Consumer debt decreased at an annual rate of 3.25% in the second quarter. Revolving credit (credit card debt) decreased at an annual rate of 9.5%, and nonrevolving credit (car loans…) was about unchanged.
Revolving consumer debt now stands at $827 billion down $39 billion this year. That is on top of a $92 decline in 2009. Hopefully we can continue this success.
Through June of 2010 total outstanding consumer debt was $2,419 billion, a decline of $30 billion ($21 billion of the decline was in the 2nd quarter). This still leaves over $8,000 in consumer debt for every person in the USA and $20,000 per family.
Consumer debt grew by about $100 billion each year from 2004 through 2007. In 2009 consumer debt declined over $100 billion so far: from $2,561 billion to $2,449 billion.
The huge amount of outstanding consumer and government debt remains a burden for the economy. At least some progress is being made to decrease consumer debt.
Those living in USA have consumed far more than they have produced for decades. That is not sustainable. You don’t fix this problem by encouraging more spending and borrowing: either by the government or by consumers. The long term problem for the USA economy is that people have consuming more than they have been producing.
Thankfully over the last year at least consumer debt has been declining, but it needs to decline more. I disagree with those that want to see short term improvement in the economy powered by consumer debt. It would be nice to see improvement to the current economy. But we can’t afford to achieve that with more debt. Government debt has been exploding so unfortunately that problem has continued to get worse.
Data from the federal reserve.