Credit Card Holders’ Bill of Rights Revisited

Okay, I finally read the thing.  I’m happy to report that as usual, the media did a lousy job reporting on it, and I did a lousy job researching it.  On the surface, at least, it sounds very good in that it actually addresses some major problems I remember having with credit card companies — that is, problems that are real.  From what I read in the media previously, it sounded like…well…COBRA.  So I am a bit relieved.  But only a bit.

Read a synopsis of the bill here.

The one thing that still gets to me, outside of the nagging question of whether the bill will actually do any good, is the same question one of the comments at the end of the article asked: “how did the credit card companies get to be such crooks in the first place?”

All I know is that things started to change, slowly, during the late 1990’s.  Prior to that, credit had been straightforward and relatively easy to deal with: you got your bill and if you paid it on time, you were okay and your balance went down a bit.  Eventually you could look forward to having no balance at all.  It was possible then. 

But slowly, during the 1990’s, I started to notice that the balances were going down less and less.

The problems lurched into hyperspeed fairly early on in the present decade, when my own personal credit-card dilemma finally got scary enough for me to take fairly drastic measures.  I found I simply could not keep up trying to pay the cards off the old-fashioned way, because there was no longer an old-fashioned way; there were only tricks and pitfalls.  The credit card companies were either on speed or crack, or perhaps both along with some LSD thrown in.  There was no sanity or clarity.  Alice in Wonderland was probably less befuddled than I was. 

My bills were always paid on time, but increasingly I was being treated like a slacker.  The interest rates did not actually soar, but there was interest on top of interest, it became impossible to avoid further fees and interest charges by meeting the due dates because the interest had by then started accruing before the due dates.  Long after — in fact, a few years after — I stopped using the cards, my balances kept increasing in spite of the fact that I always made the payments on time.

That was just plain wrong.  Thank goodness I found a way out of it.  But the thing is, it never should have happened in the first place.

And so we have this plaintive question: how did the credit card companies get to be such crooks? 

There seems to be no answer.  And I have a sinking feeling that they are addicted to their crooked ways, and will not give them up without a fight.

The interesting thing will be to see whether they are willing to fight to the death — their death — to keep being crooks.  Would they rather close their doors than play it straight?

We’ll soon find out.  All I can say is, I’m glad I’m out of this fight.  It ain’t gonna be pretty.

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