Sunday, September 09, 2007

Credit card follies

It's been said that a conservative is a liberal who has been mugged, and a liberal is a conservative who has been arrested. For my money, a liberal is a conservative who has dealt with credit card companies.

(Of course I just ranted about someone possibly signing on for dumb financing deals. Hey, I contain multitudes.)

First off, I know - if you have any reasonable alternative to carrying a credit card balance you probably ought to have your head examined. And there's plenty of fine print, which we consumers are tempted to skim over and generally fail to appreciate fully.

But now imagine that you make at leat a minimum payment on time, then you make the next payment 27 days later, and the credit card company (hereafter known as "thieves") charges you $29 for a late fee.

How did they explain that one? Bill due on 2nd, and I paid it on time (much more than the minimum due). I also paid again around the 5th of that month for the following payment. The billing cycle runs on the 13th, applying the payment on the 5th to the bill due on the 2nd along with the original on time payment, and produced another bill due on the 2nd of the next month. I pay again on the 5th of the next month online (the remaining balance), and wonder why it is that I'm showing a late fee on the bill. The CSRs tell me that this is the way it works.

Well, maybe I missed something in the paperwork. But really, it's not exactly a technological innovation to apply the payment after the 2nd to the following month, and it's certainly a rational expectation. Who would expect to be penalized for paying "too early"?

Imagine Joe Schmuck gets a credit card with his first payment due on 2/2. He pays at least minimum payment on 1/20, leaving a balance. He pays at least the minimum again on 2/5 expecting it to be applied to next bill. But thieves run billing cycle on 2/13, apply 2/5 payment to 2/2 and produce bill due 3/2. Joe pays for the third time on 3/5 intended for the bill he expects will be due on 4/2, but thieves treat it as late for 3/2. If he's not paying attention and continues to pay on the 5th, he'll get hit for a late fee every month, despite starting out current and paying at least the minimum at intervals of no more than a month. Sheesh, if that's how they treat a customer like that, what would they do to someone who actually paid *late*?

The thieves said they'll remove the late charge effective with the next bill. We'll see.

Then there's folly #2 with another den of thieves. Thieves send letter saying accept rate increase or account is disabled. Never mind a 10 year stable record with that company and no changes in my circumstances - CSR says "it's not you, it's us - it's a business decision".

That's OK, I make business decisions too. The twist is that if you don't bend over and take it, you can't use their website to make payments any more. There's no way to pay them locally, and they charge you if you pay them by phone. So those of us who don't get paper bills or who are on the road a lot and have a hard time catching up with our mail can just go to hell. So guess who won't be in my wallet?

Why is it...

...that when medical, drug or financial costs increase, the media busts the providers, but when college costs rise outrageously it's treated as inevitable?

Some local news show just boo-hooed for a girl who managed to run up $100,000 in loans to major in something as remunerative as art.

Nobody questioned her decision. Nobody questioned the college costs. Nope, just the $1000/month loan payments, which would be even higher if she made more money.

It might well be that she could have received a better deal for the college financing. But I dare suggest that anyone who'd accept some of these financing deals is too dumb to go to college anyway.