Credit card companies play by different set of rules than the rest of us

Tuesday, May 19, 2009 | 6:00 a.m. CDT

As far as I’m concerned it’s way past time for legislation to be written and passed to stop credit card companies from abusing their customers. And it’s also past time for legislation to stop corporations from avoiding paying taxes on money they earn in other countries. The fact that these businesses have gotten away with these kinds of abuses for this long is unconscionable.

Is there no end to the arrogance of these greedy people? Do they think they should be allowed to go on cheating endlessly? What about the rest of us? Just because we belong to the working or middle class, does that mean that we are the only people who have to abide by the law and walk a straight line? These crooks and the politicians who let them get away with it need to be stopped immediately.

I realize that rich people have been led by some to believe that their financial worth makes them superior to the rest us mere mortals. Surely, they can buy more, live more expensively and pay people to curry their favor. But that doesn’t mean that they are a human being of a higher quality. And no, I’m not one of those people who believe in the redistribution of the wealth, I just want the people with the wealth to abide by the same rules that apply to us all.

I realize that the banks have gotten themselves into big financial trouble, but that’s not the fault of consumers. That’s because they made bad lending decisions in an effort to make more money. Now they want to recover their losses by taking unfair advantage of credit card customers by raising their interest rates and trimming their credit lines.

These, of course, are the same people that fill your mailboxes every week with junk mail offers to lend you tons of money to buy more stuff. They send you blank checks and encourage you to use them for whatever you want. And while the Federal Reserve has already taken action to put an end to many of these companies’ unfair practices, their new rules won’t take effect until July 2010. Just think of what the card issuers can do to consumers in the meantime.

The U.S. House of Representatives has already passed legislation to bar some of their practices. For instance, one provision of their bill would halt retroactive rate hikes on balances 90 days after enactment. Unfortunately, some of their rules would not take effect for a year. The Senate is working on its version of the bill before it goes to the president’s desk. He would like to sign the bill by Memorial Day.

While in the days of our parents it was a lot easier to pay cash or use a lay-away plan to purchase most goods and services, our present way of life literally makes that impossible for working families. For one thing, in those days, most people got paid every week. If there was an emergency, for example, the hot water tank went out, most could wait until payday to pay for a new one. Now, most paydays are every two weeks or once a month, and stretching one’s earnings to cover a month’s expenses is sometimes difficult. Credit plans for people who pay their bills regularly can make life a bit easier, especially for those who spend within their means.

Now, that we are in a recession and the banks are hard-pressed, many consumers who have behaved according to their credit card agreements and have paid their bills on time are finding themselves being unfairly penalized and punished.

Most of the financial gurus believe that the recession will eventually go away and our economy will improve. Nevertheless, a lot of people are hurting in the meantime, and so I hope new regulations will be put in place and kept in place so we do not have to repeat this episode in our lives again.

I hope this lesson will be a lasting one and our legislators get it through their heads once and for all times that businesses, like individuals, need to be regulated. If given the opportunity to do the wrong thing, there will always be a number of people and organizations who will choose that path. That’s just a simple fact.

I bet if most people could afford to, they would cut up their credit cards and get out of the credit-buying business. But not everyone can afford to do that. We have to depend, therefore, on the government to prevent unscrupulous companies from taking unfair advantage of consumers.

I certainly hope we can.

You can join the conversation with Rose M. Nolen by calling her at 882-5734 or e-mailing her at

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John Schultz May 19, 2009 | 7:17 p.m.

Credit card companies don't force one to accept their product, nor do payday lenders or auto companies with high-interest loans. If one doesn't like their solicitations in the mail box, there is a toll-free number that can be called to virtually eliminate the letters - I think my family has received less than 10 over the past ten years from companies we did not already have a business relationship with.

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kate May 20, 2009 | 8:31 a.m.

I have one credit card and two store based cards. I pay on time each month. For me, the cards are helpful for convenience alone. If the card companies start to charge me extra for being responsible, then I will simply cancel them. I'm getting sick of seeing people rewarded for living outside their means, and will not stand to be charged more for keeping to a budget and being responsible.

(Report Comment)
Mark Foecking May 20, 2009 | 10:14 a.m.

"stretching one’s earnings to cover a month’s expenses is sometimes difficult"

People used to do something called "saving for a rainy day" in case unexpected expenses came up. Since it's possible to live better in the present by not doing that, few people seem to do that anymore.

Consume, consume, consume...


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