Sunday, April 11, 2010

Credit cards: the new scam, same as the old

It seems that my best efforts to be the credit-card company's worst customer has hit a snag. The bank has hit upon a new scam, and it's going to cost me $15 in finance charges this month.

Three things happened. First, my 0% interest on purchases went up to 2.99%. I'm sure they sent me some stupid piece of paper in the mail notifying me of this, and I'm sure you all diligently read them with a magnifying glass, but I just toss them into the recycled paper bin.

Second on Feb 13, a new federal law went into effect: the bank has to disclose it's interest payments on purchases, and separate them out from other interest (balance transfers and cash advances).

Third thing: the bank decided that it's going to start charging interest beginning from the statement date, not the due date. This is written down nowhere that I can find and I think they just made it up. Update: Via Chris Ing on Facebook, I've learned that this is called the Grace Period. My CC bank has altered it with minimal warning (if any). Scum bags.

Then I get hit with a $15 interest payment on a statement that only earned me 20 reward points; I would only make out $5 ahead. Huh? I have my auto pay set up to always pay my cards down on the due date, thinking I was being clever by holding onto my money for as long as I could.

We have a BS from Berkeley, a BA from Berkeley, and an MS from Stanford combined between the two of us, and it still took two calls to the bank to figure out what had happened.

I have obviously changed my auto pay to now pay the balance on the statement date.

I tried shopping around for a card to give me 0% interest again, but they're rare, and the rate is only introductory. According to this web site on Yahoo!, low-interest cards are going to get even rarer, and even then only for businessmen and the wealthy.

Lessons (re)-learned: 0) The bank is not my friend, 1) Always look at your statements, and 2) pay down your balance on the statement date. I had to modify the third to reflect the new reality of an industry that always finds more ways to scrape scum from the bottom of the barrel.

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