Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Reading this might make you sick, but you can't afford to go to the hospital.

Remember that essay I wrote about healthcare reform? Well then, you'll remember its ugly stepsister Credit Card Reform. It seems that the good folks at Bank of America have found a little work-around to that piece of legislation:
NEW YORK – Bank of America Corp. said Tuesday it will charge a limited number of its credit card customers annual fees ranging from $29 to $99 starting next year.
"We're testing this to see what the feedback is. In terms of any plans going forward, we haven't made any decisions," said Betty Riess, a spokeswoman for Bank of America. She said the fee is being "tested" on 1 percent of its credit card accounts globally, but declined to give specific numbers.
Let me guess as to what "the feedback is." I guess -- um -- bad. Like, "Fuck you, you bastards" bad. Like the kind of bad that makes people transfer their balances and start screaming at Bank of America's customer service reps.
Oh, and guess who gets slapped with the fees? The people who don't use the cards!
The Bank of America accounts that will be charged fees were selected based on "risk and profitability," Riess said. That means customers in good standing who never carried a balance — and never incurred interest charges or late fees — could be among those getting notices.
Risk and profitability? Here's the equation that BoA uses to define risk and profitability:
Low risk to Bank of America + low profitability to Bank of America = Added fee.
It seems that they aren't satisfied with having you merely carry the card around in your wallet in case of ... God forbid ... a financial emergency, they want you to start using the damned thing. Run up a big balance and miss a payment or two, and we'll think about waving that pesky fee. Because it must cost a lot of money to not print up a bill and not have someone process a payment. You didn't think they were in the service industry, did you?
But gosh, Aunt Bea, didn't the company promise not to raise rates? Didn't the government promise to fix the problem so my credit card company wouldn't charge me so much?
The notices of the new fee comes after Bank of America last week vowed not to hike interest rates on credit cards ahead of the sweeping new credit-card reforms that go into effect in February. That pledge came as Congress considered moving up the effective date of the law to Dec. 1. Customers across the country have seen interest rates hiked and credit limits lowered since the law was signed in May.
But I thought they were going to help us?
Analysts have predicted banks would make up lost revenue by charging annual fees more frequently on credit cards and checking accounts, even for customers in good standing.
"We are making this change in response to market conditions, new federal laws and regulations, and the increasing costs of providing unsecured credit," states a letter sent to a Bank of America credit-card customer and obtained by The Associated Press.
Oh well, as long as it's in response to market conditions. Hey wait, aren't you partly responsible for market conditions, since you're kind of "the market?"
"But, I can reject the fee and cut up my card, right?" Not so fast, Lois.
Customers are told that they can reject the fee, but will subsequently have their account closed. The deadline to reject the change of terms is Dec. 16. Closing a credit card account can come with repercussions to a person's credit score, since it would lower the amount of available credit a person has access to.
Oh, OK - I'll just keep the card and run up more debt, that way the company won't charge me the fee and my credit rating won't suffer. That makes good nonsense.
See ... you people think government is out to help you, but what really happens is that big corporations have lawyers and really shrewd businessmen with college degrees and stuff. They spend days at a time thinking up ways to work around the pages of legislation that our government spends years writing. Before the ink is dry on the president's ceremonial pen the gang of thieves at your local bank or credit card company have laughed in the government's face, and like Rocky in that fight against Clubber Lang, they take the pounding and yell back, "Ain't so bad! Ain't so bad!"

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