For decades I’ve played a cat-and-mouse game with the credit card companies. It’s not what you think.
You see, I’ve been paying the full balance each month shortly after graduating college in 1986, because I detest paying interest. Profit-hungry banks don’t like those of us who pay off our debts while taking advantage of all their “great” deals because we:
- Avoid annual fees;
- Favor cards with the best rewards; and we
- Prefer gold cards for free insurance and other benefits.
So the banks continuously are looking for ways to trip up us “zero” balance folks. When I lived in Chicago, my bill would arrive only days before it was due. This problem was created because my bank shortened the number of days I had to respond, and because Chicago has the worst mail system in the nation, according The Consumerist.
After falling victim to one or two late fees, I called up my bank to complain. Their answer? It’s not the bank’s fault mail is slow: Pay electronically, said the sanctimonious phone jockey.
In fact, I dread calling the credit card issuer for any reason these days. Gone are the days of the helpful clerk; today, they all have the tone of overwrought parents guilt-tripping their misguided children.
Of course, the credit card company WANTS me to miss payments. I never pay an annual fee, so there are only two ways to make money off me: interest on credit and penalty fees. Because I always avoid the first, my bank is always trying to trick me into paying penalties.
But with credit card reform about to become law, the banks are feeling particularly nasty about those of us with sterling credit, reports The New York Times. While Congress is limiting penalties on riskier borrowers, banks may soon revive annual fees, cut back on cash-back programs and other rewards, and charge interest on items moments after they are purchased. Oh, and interest rates that a Mafioso could only dream of charging, are already going up.
Industry analysts seem to think that folks like you and me are getting a free ride. Hah! You think the merchant doesn’t pass his credit card fees on to the consumer? If we get charged for the bullshit privilege of having a credit card, then we are being billed TWICE! (Why do Americans complain about taxes but let banks walk all over them?)
If the banks start charging interest moments after buying gas or groceries, I will walk around with a roll of cash instead. Or I’ll go back to using my debit card. For a long time, I favored my debit card, but switched back to the credit card because of points and to minimize joint account balance confusion between me and my wife.
In the meantime, watch your mail for those 80 page, 6-point type Cardholder Agreements from your bank. If you get one, you better check to make sure the terms haven’t changed, because nowadays the fat cats are trying to eat us mice.