The Credit Card Backlash
Who’d have thunk it.
For most of the first decade of the 2000’s, people were spending money like there was no tomorrow. Even as the economy started to show signs of trouble, people kept buying. And why not; credit was easily attainable and credit card issuers couldn’t give cards away fast enough.
Then in early 2008 people started to notice the negative changes for the first time and they got scared. Unemployment became the big story, along with the housing and banking collapse. Banks stopped sending those weekly credit card offers and people started holding onto their money more. It was time to batten down the hatches to try to ride out the storm.
The storm isn’t quite over, but people have learned how to ride the wave like surfers do. Credit card issuers have started sending out offers once again, but suddenly they’re finding that fewer people are taking them up on their offers, and they’re getting scared. After all, a big part of their business is getting people to sign up for their cards and then live off the interest generated by transactions people do.
What could the problem be? Are you kidding? Let’s take a look at it all.
1. New bank fees. If you want to know what your future might be like look at your present. Banks reacted badly to governmental protections for consumers related to credit cards. They jacked up fees and interest rates, and in some cases yanked people’s credit cards away even when they were paying them on time and had never missed payments. The kicker was deciding to charge a fee to people who paid their balances off every month.
2. Changing how interest is charged. If the other wasn’t bad enough, telling consumers that interest starts the day you make a purchase instead of still getting those 25 or 30 days to pay something off is wrong as well. I had my own battle with my wife’s insurance company when I paid off the bill and she got another one for $3.50. It wasn’t the dollar amount, it was the point; they removed it.
3. Banks aren’t giving out loans. At least the big banks aren’t giving out many loans, and people remember that sort of thing.
4. You put in a request for a card at one limit and they give you one with a different limit. My wife got an offer for a card with a $5,000 limit, so she applied. She got approved for $400; she immediately canceled it. Those types of bait and switch tactics will irritate anyone.
5. Overall, we still don’t trust banks. I know I don’t, and I’m not talking about my local bank that, happily, weathered the bank closing storm very well indeed. The big banks have done a lot of sneaky stuff, haven’t shown consumers any respect, and for me, I don’t care how many funny Capital One commercials there are, they know what they did to me and my account last year, and I would never trust them again, even with all the things they keep sending me.
People are using their debit cards more and are making sure they keep an eye on their spending. That sounds fiscally responsible to me.