Archive for January 19, 2009

You can just hang around outside in the sun all day, tossing a ball around, or you can sit at your computer and do something that matters!

Posted in Rants, Ro-Sham-Bo Award on January 19, 2009 by thelasthonestman

Like give out this week’s Ro-Sham-Bo, for instance.  Let’s warm them up, shall we Eric?


That’s better.  See that look on Cartman’s face?  That pissed-off countenance pretty well matched my own, when I got in a notice from Chase National yesterday regarding a credit account my wife has with them.  Or, I might say, had with Washington Mutual (recently acquired by Chase) and likely will never have with Chase at all.

Here’s some quick background for you — my wife and I usually loathe the idea of putting anything on credit — a practice we know was confirmed to be the right decision on our part with her recent job concerns.  However, we’d started remodeling our home two and a half years ago (doubling our square footage, but saving money by doing nearly all of the work ourselves), and like all remodels, there were expenses that it made sense to spread out some over time.  We’ve had four regular credit accounts, along with special accounts at Home Depot and Rooms-to-Go.  The latter two have been especially helpful, considering both have run (and continue to run) promotions allowing higher-end purchases to be “No interest/no payments” for anywhere from six months to a year.  No reason to not take advantage of that right?

Well, if you have an account with Chase National — or with Bank of America, as well — then surprisingly, there are reasons you don’t want to take advantage of it.  Because if you do, you might see your A.P.R. doubled for — well, frankly, for no reason at all other than these mega-banks want to take every opportunity to screw over you, the consumer, even when you’ve done nothing to warrant it.  And by the way, if you’re scoring at home, I’m not just talking about a doubling of the A.P.R. on future purchases, but on items you’d already purchased previously.

Now in paying bills, my wife and I don’t believe in the minimum payment — for her Washington Mutual account (and my Bank of America) account, for a long time we had paid our balances in full each month, avoiding any occurrence of finance charges.  At one point, however, circumstances regarding the aforementioned remodel made it make more sense to carry a balance from month to month for a time, and use our cash flow in a better way to move the project along.  During this period, we would make our payments to each company well in advance of any due date, and usually made multiple payments a month on said account, though still leaving a balance remaining.  We’re the perfect customers if you’re a credit company, right?

But in the Bizarro world of Chase National and Bank of America, evidently, we’re the customers that need to be punished however, with higher A.P.R.’s all of a sudden, despite the fact that 1) When we signed up for these accounts we agreed to certain terms and 2) We’ve never done anything that would constitute violating those terms (though each of these “fine” institutions can’t say the same).

This guy obviously agrees.

This guy obviously agrees.

I haven’t had the “pleasure” of a conversation with Chase yet, but I can already see how it’s probably going to go — just like my conversation with the “customer service” wing of Bank of America did.  When I inquired about what I had done to warrant a doubling of my A.P.R. there, I was told that it had nothing to do with my timely payments and dedication to the responsibility that goes with having such an account — rather it was due to the high balances I had on other cards — you guessed it, my Home Depot and Rooms-to-Go accounts.

I calmly explained to the person on the other end of the line that the reason those high balances existed were, because, I had no need to pay them yet — and that the promotion those companies offered revolved around that very same fact!  “If I planned out my expenditures to maximize my financial flexibility, and that plan centered on using those promotions to my advantage, then what kind of idiot would I be if I didn’t take advantage of them?” was the question I asked — frankly, I think I lost the representative with my first two-syllable word.  I wouldn’t have been surprised if the reply had been, “An idiot like us?”

After wasting nearly a half and hour with three different people that day, I finally opted out of the A.P.R change on that account (something that the credit companies have to offer you, but try to lose in the fine print of the disclaimer then send with your statement, hoping that their customers won’t notice).  In doing so, I made the commitment to never use the card again (or the higher A.P.R. would be triggered) — not a big problem since I don’t need the card, but the loss of potential credit could always affect us in a future emergency, so I’m still not happy.   I didn’t out-and-out close the account (there’s no annual fee — yet) since doing so, if you can believe it (and I know you can), would actually hurt my credit.  Where’s the justice there?

I know what you’re thinking — not only is this unethical, but it should be illegal!  Well, you’d be right — and for once, the government agrees with you and actually did something about it.  Back in December, federal regulators made wholesale changes to what credit card companies can get away with — specifically banning outright exactly what Chase is trying to do here (and what Bank of America tried to do before), but unfortunately, these changes (and others changes that protect the consumer and that the banking industry is — surprise, surprise! — horribly aghast at) won’t take place until July 2010.

So in the meantime, institutions like Chase and Bank of America will continue their unethical practices for as long as they can — and woe to the honest, hard-working, responsible consumers that get in their way of increasing their profits.  For any business to treat its customers like this is reprehensible — for banking institutions that just received a huge share of your money and mine in the form of a bailout to cover their excesses, mistakes, and incompetence, it’s barely short of criminal.  But, it is worthy of this week’s Ro-Sham-Bo Award.  For shame, for shame.