Tuesday, December 04, 2007

FIXED. Interesting coverage by The Consumerist of a Senate hearing on credit card rates:
9:37: Levin is most incensed by the retroactive nature of rate increases. Take a consumer whose debt jumps from 15% to 27%. That new rate applies not to new debts, but to all incurred debts.

9:41: Bonnie Rushing has two Bank of America cards. One is associated with AAA. Both cards had an 8% rate. BoA bumped the AAA rate from 8% to 23% because Bonnie's FICO score fell. It didn't matter that her payment history was perfect. Bonnie isn't sure why her FICO score dropped, but she thinks it may be because she opened a store-branded card at Macy's to receive an immediate 10% discount on a purchase, unaware that it would affect her FICO score.

9:43: When Bonnie received the rate-increase notice, she opted-out and closed her account. BoA tried to pressure her to keep the new, higher rate, but after she complained to state and federal authorities, BoA let her close her account. BoA's president will testify today.

9:44: Capital One raises rates by looking for accounts that haven't been bumped in three years—but they don't use FICO scores.

9:44: One consumer was hit by three rate increases in three months. Oftentimes the rates doubled or tripled. The consumer was able to reduce her rates by calling and fighting the credit card companies.

9:46: Levin: "If you shop with a credit card, as most consumers do, dangers lurk."

9:46: Most people don't realize that their FICO score drops even if they approach—not exceed, approach—their credit limit.

9:47: The Committee asked who determines a FICO score, who determines when a rate jumps because of a FICO score. The answer: computers.

9:47: Issuers don't know why a FICO score drops. They have four "reason codes," generic statements like: "balance grew too fast compared to credit limit," or "balance on bank cards is too low"...
I think we should regulate the credit card industry into next Sunday, but I eagerly await rebuttal from Megan McArdle, who will probably think I just want to keep poor people from having credit.


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