Last year the House of Representatives passed a bill of rights for credit cardholders that didn’t make it through the Senate. It may fare better in 2009. Personally, though, I’m against such a measure. Credit cardholders shouldn’t have special rights vis-a-vis card issuing banks. That’s not fair. The really fair approach is simply to give cardholders the same rights as issuers.
Banks, for example, now have total discretion when it comes to card rates. They can increase them if they think a cardholder has become less credit worthy. Or they can increase them for no reason at all except that it suits their desire for larger profits.
I don’t see a problem here. The problem is that cardholders can’t do the same. Suppose you want to pay less every month because your income has dropped. Or because you wish to get a lifestyle jolt. Or just because the idea seems appealing. You should have the same right to lower rates as banks have to raise them. That’s plain fairness.
There’s also the matter of fees. Your monthly check arrives at a bank three hours late and they charge you a $39 late fee. No one should be bothered by that. But heck. I haven’t received a monthly bill from Mastercard or Visa on the same day of the month for two months running in three years. Do you know the administrative hassle this has caused me? The personal anguish? The loss of connubial pleasure? Obviously, I, too, should have the right to assess a $39 fee that comes off my balance if the bank’s monthly bill does not arrive on time.
Credit card contracts are scared things. In America today these documents rank with the Ten Commandments in the way they shape our daily obligations to others. But the contracts we’ve been signing with credit card issuers have a serious flaw. They lack fairness. They don’t give both parties an equal shake.
Forget a special bill of rights for borrowers. This is America. Americans want the same rights for everybody. This should include both borrowers, and the banks they favor with their borrowing trade.
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