The 79.99% APR Credit Card

It sounds ridiculous. First Premiere Bank launched a new credit card with a 79.99% interest rate. It targeted consumers who couldn’t get a credit card anywhere else, and it was popular. Too popular, in fact. “A lot of the people ran up the card, defaulted and went directly to charge off,” First Premiere’s Bank told CNN Money. Since then they’ve dropped it to 59.99% and that’s just low enough to keep enough people paying off interest to make it profitable. But wait, wasn’t the CARD act supposed to prevent these really hight rates and stuff?

Nope. It only stops issuers from jacking up the rates retroactively. They can charge whatever they want to start out with.

In fact, before the CARD act, this particular credit card charged only a 25% interest rate and charged a slew of fees to make up for the money they lose when borrowers go belly up. “Before the new regulations we had the ability to hold specific individuals accountable for their own actions by charging these fees,” First Premiere Bank’s CEO told CNN Money. “Now we must spread this risk out among all our customers through higher APRs.”

But at least people can see the high interest rate up front and not get surprised by a ream of hidden fees. For the financial services industry, that counts as progress.

My credit card had a 79.9% APR [CNN Money]