Credit cards are so much worse than you thought, according to the 2008 Consumer Action credit card survey. Creditors have carte blanche to do pretty much whatever they want, including randomly changing terms, conditions, and rates, even to cardholders with perfect payment histories and pristine credit scores.
From the survey:
- 77% of surveyed credit card issuers (17 of 22) answered “Yes” to the question “Can you increase my APR or change my terms ‘any time for any reason’?” This includes all Top Ten issuers – even Citibank which pledges not to change a customer’s terms before the card’s expiration date.
- Bank of America, Chase, Citi, American Express and Capital One all reserve the right to change rates without notifying consumer in advance.
- Representatives for Bank of America, Capital One and Citi cited “market conditions,” “the economy,” and ”business strategies” as factors that might cause an interest rate to increase.
Consumer Action also identified several practices that will seem all too familiar to many of us:
- As consumers pay off large balances, creditors slash credit limits so that the balance is always close to the credit limit.
- Credit limits are reduced to levels lower than the current balance, triggering over limit fees and requiring a large “balloon” payment of the over-due amount. This practice also puts the consumer at risk of being hit with a penalty interest rate.
- Cards are declined at the point of purchase, and only then do cardholders find out that their limits have been reduced with no warning.
When asked to comment on their practices, several creditors responded: “Brahahaha!”