Why credit cards are a problem at ALL banks (Editorial)

As evidenced by many recent headlines as well as this Marketplace story, all banks seem to be trying to squeeze as much money from their credit card customers to make up for rising delinquencies. Excuses for raising rates to sky-high levels are getting pretty thin and hard to believe. Getting your rates jacked up to 30% because you were late on one payment even for good reason is commonplace and most credit card companies are guilty of other sleazy practices, such as applying payments to the lowest interest rate debt (even if it is the newest) and applying interest to already paid balances.

President Obama is meeting with credit card executives today to try and convince them to become more reasonable lest they get new regulation shoved down their throats by Congress. The Federal Reserve has already instituted new rules back in December 2008, which covers banks regulsted by them. These rules don’t take effect until July 2010. At this point, relief seems certain, but it will take a year or more to take effect.

Even if regulation does fix some of the problems, new rules may not apply to what banks have already done and banks will probably figure out new and creative ways to ding customers. Consumers must learn to be as active as possible in dealing with fee agressive banks.

If you feel that you have been treated unfairly, I urge you to contact your bank and ask them to be more reasonable. If the person you are talking says they can’t do anything, ask for a manager. If the manager won’t do anything, ask for their manager. If they won’t transfer you to a manager, call back and try again. Contact the company’s customer satisfaction department. File a complaint with the BBB, your states department of consumer affairs, or the organization that regulates your bank. Write letters in addition to calling them on the phone. Find online venues where you can post your complaints. Set up your own complaint website like I did. Write your congressperson. Read your bill and make sure it is correct. Read the fine print on your credit card agreement and see if you can find where they are breaking it.

The more that people refuse to be taken advantage of the less leeway it gives organizations to take advantage of us.

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