Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Nuclear Option and Other Thoughts on Credit Cards

I have to admit that the recent reforms forced on the credit card companies is a good thing, the word for what they had been up to is gouging, nothing more or less. Most distasteful of all, these things were all directed at the vulnerable type of person, who got into trouble with the cards. Once that happened, it was open season on the poor saps [and I say that as someone who has been a sap in my day]. Unfortunately, it turns out that this was a great part of the profitability of that type of business, actually part of the reason investment in financial stocks have suffered recently it seems. Better keep an eye out for how they might be maneuvering to get some of those profits back, I say.

So yay! for the reforms, pretty heart-wrenching to know personally someone getting clobbered and to see what they have to go through. But to tell you the truth, if I was being selfish, I'd be for the old system, not being a target myself. What the reforms actually mean to me is nothing, I don't care about any of them personally. Furthermore, the things that do irritate me about these outfits is going untouched.

So what are these things? A#1, I resent totally and absolutely the fact that in order to function fully in this society, you must have credit cards. You can't properly and conveniently buy airline tickets, items on the internet, etc., but especially can't make hotel reservations and rent a car without these things. Apparently we can expect this to get worse if the ideas from some quarters prevail. I'd actually prefer to live my life without them, and trust me, the cost of living goes down when you pull out hard earned cash for everything, as anybody sure thinks twice.

And there is a host of other BS practices that are going to be allowed to go on unchecked. Such as continuous unsolicited offers for more cards, just rope to hang yourself if you don't use these cards properly.

Such as offering "no payment this month". Ever get one of those offers? Of course this is an attempt to lure you into paying interest. They may only send those to those of us who pay off the bills every month.

Such as sending checks to use in the mail, unsolicited. It is my firm opinion that this is an attempt to get you to think this is just another usual way to use your credit card. Full disclosure that you are dipping into the high cost cash option, in my experience, is lacking or written in gobbledygook. Seeming indications that it is not cashing out are not to be trusted IMO. You could get cash with that check, couldn't you? That should be all the thinking you need to do on that.

Such as constantly trying to get you to sign up for protection on your cards. Seems to me this protects them, not you. You have the limited liability of $50. In a related matter, in my line of work, I used to constantly have American Express users get denied when larger purchases were involved. The irritated customer would have to call this card company so they would know that it was a proper and legitimate charge. The customer would be told that this was to protect the consumer. Of course, it was only to protect American Express. This practice would sometimes freak a customer out and you'd lose the sale. I have never forgiven that outfit for this, although in the last few years it seems to have stopped.

Such as dazzling offers in the mail for things I care nothing about. You can get a card that will say "you are some kind of hot shit" when people see it! Sure. BTW there are credit card websites where people get together to talk about the cards. I've lost the links, but apparently typically it's all about who has the flashiest card, the most perks, and the highest limits. Yawn.

Such as being transferred to an operator who tries to sell you something when you are just trying to activate a card. I've had some ugly experiences with this, getting my jollies first by asking them why it would be that they have to ask me who I am. It finally occurred to me that you have activated the card using the automated system (they don't want employees in that!) and when you realize you are being transferred to talk to someone, it's just time to hang up.

Such as bad service when you have a problem. It just should not be the case that you would have trouble getting through to a human being! Yet it is often so, I've run into things like being asked for a security phrase when I never set one up! Not to mention plain old ridiculously complex phone trees to wade through, causing you to have to go nuclear to get service.

You see, I'm not crazy enough to want to go through all this baloney if I could get it out of my life. But I can't, you must have these horrid things.

BTW did you hear what happened when the Soviet Union collapsed? Former bureaucrats of that system said the dossiers they supposedly on all their citizens were about totally non-existent except for special cases. What was impressive, they said, was the credit card histories kept on all the citizens of the west. Now that was something the Communist secret police really envied!!

Bottom line, I resent this system, this necessary evil. I get even by gaming the system. That will be a future post.

Oh, yeah, I promised to say what going nuclear is. What you want to do is find and call the number that is for lost and stolen cards. You'll get an operator right away, no phone tree to navigate. Ummm, before you sign up to "protect" your credit cards, guess what this shows about who is actually liable for unauthorized charges?