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Many of you have been receiving lots of mail from your credit card providers recently. It all started several months ago, when the many changes to the Credit Reform Reporting laws were going to take effect.
First came the raise in interest rates letter. These Terms and Conditions included little things like how much would be charged for Late Payments, Over Limit Fees and just plain failure to meet the payment deadline. Most of us with fairly great credit saw our 7.8% APR’s or lower - for purchases jumped appreciably to 13.8% and in many cases up to 19.9%. Initially, we just thought those Credit Card people were simply in a state of panic. As Len Goodman said on “Dancing with the Stars” to David Hasslehoff…”It’s never too early to panic!”
Every time the changes in Terms and Conditions arrived….we knew we were getting the “great screw job” – not because of our actions, but simply because of so-called Market Forces!
Our corrective action was to immediately call our Credit Card provider and ask for two things: (1) A raise in our Credit Limit and (2) Request a variance to keep our APR rate for purchases to the original percentage. Sadly, the Credit Card companies got so many calls in this regard that they immediately changed their strategy and what once took one person to talk too….was soon taking three. “I cannot request a credit increase….I will put YOU through to the Credit Department.” Whaaat? We thought that was who we were talking to in the first place. In order to make it even more terribly unappetizing……the Credit Dept. ghoul acted as if we were starting with our provider from day one rather than the last ten years. This system was obviously instituted to dissaude people from asking for any corrective action to the situation.
After the dust had settled and the Credit Reform laws had been created to stop obviously stupid and stealthy Credit Card charges, we knew what was coming next: “The Indefatigable Annual Fee”. It goes something like this: After years and years of not paying an annual fee for your Credit Card…suddenly one shows up on monthly bill. What is terribly disturbing is the fact that you have to call the Credit Card provider and ask them why they have placed an annual fee on your account. The answer you get is interesting and disturbing as well: “Market Forces in the Banking Industry have changed and now all Capital One accounts will have annual fees!”.
When you asked your Credit Card provider redundantly whether just your account or all accounts are being charged an annual fee…..the Consumer Rep says without equivocation: “All accounts!” Why of course this information was NOT included in one of the many New Terms and Conditions letters….is obviously rhetorical as well as incomprehensible.
In order to get your latest Free Credit Report, you now need to ask the big three questions rather than just the big two. (1) Credit Limit Increase (2) Lowering the APR for purchases and (3) Waving the Annual Fee. If you are refused any of these items….a letter from your Credit provider should be forthcoming within 10 days and you then you can immediately request a current Credit Report - to be sure nothing may have been charged to you that you are not responsible for. This happens far too often – by the way! www.ftc.gov/bcp/consumer.shtm
Meanwhile, it may be a time to access just how many Credit Cards you need. If each one is going to charge $39 to $85 a year, the cost could become prohibitive! In any case, watch your Credit Card billing statements carefully. Cards that you may not have used for years may come up with a new annual fee or charge. By the way, forget to pay your annual fee and that card will be reported to the various Credit Reporting Agencies as late or worse…..could be cancelled with an unappropriate huge late fee adding insult to injury. By the way, that info stays on your Credit report for seven years! No, you can’t get it off without hours and hours and hours of frustrating cohersive, mean spirited, begging and pleadings!
In the meantime, we as Consumers are taking the brunt of the Banking Crisis that is restricting Cash to Small Banks. The talk on the street of course is: There is no liquidity shortage! Meanwhile, the Big Banks and Investment Banking people that have been bailed out – all seem to be doing just fine. Where is Elizabeth Warren now that we need her?