Both Sides of the Fence

A Tosa resident since 1991, Christine walks the dog, cooks but avoids housework, writes and reads, and enjoys the company of friends and strangers. Her job takes her around the state, learning about people's health. A Quaker (no, they don't wear blue hats or sell oatmeal or motor oil), she has been known to stand on both sides of the political and philosophic fence at the same time, which is very uncomfortable when you think about it. She writes about pretty much whatever stops in to visit her busy mind at the moment. One reader described her as "incredibly opinionated but not judgmental." That sounds like a good thing to strive for!

Helping consumers?

Credit cards, economy

Awhile ago, I vented about a credit card company changing my interest rate capriciously. No late payments, no decline in credit score, and yet they shifted me from a single digit interest rate to a rate over 20%.

How things can change in a few months!

Today, another credit card service sent me a bill with $0.00 in the minimum payment box, despite a balance of several hundred dollars.

Under "Important News" at the bottom of the statement:

You have the flexibility to skip a payment. You must pay past due and overlimit balances immediately. However, the remaining minimum payment for this month has been reduced to $0. Finance charges will continue to accrue. To reduce your balance, feel free to make a payment.

Well, I did feel free to make a payment. But I can't help but think this is a trap for people who are financially even more pressed than I am. It would be so easy  to "feel free" not to make a payment.

Suze Orman always reminds us to pay more than the minimum payment. I have a good sense what the minimum would normally be, and I multiply that by at least 4. When I had a job, I always paid the balance off. That's not possible right now. But it's more important than ever to keep from falling further behind.

I'm guessing the intention is to give a little leeway to people who can't pay this month but can next. If that's the case, it should be part of the "Important News." I couldn't find a further explanation anywhere.

It's great for credit companies to adopt fair practices. This particular company has always been ahead of the game that way.  It's great for the government to set regulations and put limits on usury to protect consumers.

But let the buyer/borrower still beware. If you don't pay today, you'll pay more tomorrow. Some things don't change.

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