Even The Former FDIC Chair Isn’t Safe From The Clutches Of Retailer Credit Cards

The next time you’re banging your head against the wall and moaning over what an idiot you’ve been to ignore late credit card payments, know this: You are not alone. Also you’re not an idiot, but if the woman who used to head up the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation can get entangled in problems with retailer credit cards, it can happen to anybody.

Showing that people seriously in the know about financial matters are just like us, former FDIC Chair Sheila Blair shares her nightmare story on CNNMoney about how a $2 slip-up could’ve cost her $90,000.

She explains that she tries not to succumb to the wiles of retailers and their offers of 15% on a purchase here or there for signing up for store credit cards, but she slipped up once. Just once, that was all it took. A post-Christmas sale offered a discount at a store she calls Predator X, so she gave in and bought a half-price suit.

When the credit card bill came the next month, Blair says she wrote the check right away but perhaps was a bit sloppy — what was supposed to be a 9 looked like a 7 to the retailer’s computer. She got a bill the next month for $2.

Figuring it was a waste of postage and a check, she let the $2 debt slide. When the next bill came for $12 — the $2 plus a late fee — she was annoyed but ignored it for a few more months before finally paying it.

That wasn’t the end, however — when she and her husband applied for a loan to build a house, they were shocked to find out that her husband’s 800ish credit score was far above hers, triggering a rate quote a half percentage point above prime. This was upsetting because as someone who deals with the financial industry, a credit score is not something to be taken lightly, she explains.

“We both pride ourselves on our stellar credit histories. Our idea of fun is to compete with each other over who has the best FICO score.”

That DOES sound like fun!

Anyway, she writes that even that four month delinquency did a good bit of damage, even for just a $2 debt.

“Needless to say, as instructed by my bank, I was on the phone the next day with Predator X’s customer service. Once I reached a human being who saw what had happened, she profusely apologized and promptly requested a correction on the credit report, though it has taken the credit reporting agency forever to update the report.”

If her credit report wasn’t fixed, that measly half percentage point on the loan would’ve upped their monthly payment by a whopping $250 a month, resulting in an extra $90,000 leaking out over the life of the loan. Never again, she swears. Never again.

“So I have learned my lesson. My store cards have been removed from my wallet and placed under lock and key,” Blair writes. “Never again will I succumb to the siren song of 15% discounts. My one, bank-issued credit card is really all I want to handle and that one, I pay online.”

It’s a good lesson for anyone to learn — when it comes to credit cards of any kind, pay on time and don’t just let things slide, even if there’s been a mistake. Annoying thought it may be, talking to a customer service rep will hurt a lot less than an extra $90,000 on your home loan.

How a $2 debt almost turned into $90,000 [CNNMoney]

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  1. StevenB says:

    She shouldn’t have let it slide. It’s her fault for sloppy writing and letting it slide for so long.

  2. ChicagoGeek84 says:

    “This was upsetting because as someone who deals with the financial industry, a credit score is not something to be taken lightly, she explains.”

    As someone who deals with the financial industry, she should know that a credit card bill is not something to be “ignored for a few more months before finally paying it” whether it’s due to a bank error or not.

    This has nothing to do with private label credit cards. The only problem here that I can see is that someone with such little sense of accountability and financial responsibility was able to be appointed to such an economically important position.

  3. craftman1 says:

    “She got a bill the next month for $2. Figuring it was a waste of postage and a check, she let the $2 debt slide. When the next bill came for $12 — the $2 plus a late fee — she was annoyed but ignored it for a few more months before finally paying it.”

    I cannot even comprehend that the above story comes from someone who claims to be a responsible adult. How hard is it to 1) pick up the phone, 2) check your bank balance to realize that they aren’t cheating you and they actually did deduct $2 less than you wrote the check for?

    Labeling the retailer a “Predator” in this case is one of the dumber things I have ever heard.