Bank of America has given all of us a new reason to closely monitor our credit card accounts. It seems they've decided to raise rates on existing balances for no apparent reason, other than to separate you from your hard-earned money.
You see, they've sent letters to some of their customers, informing them that their interest rates are being increased, sometimes by more than double, and that they have to respond, in writing, within x number of days to opt out (of course, "opting out" really isn't an option, as the name would imply, because what you're really doing is agreeing to pay off your balance and close your account).
When customers who have received the letters have called in to inquire about the reason(s) for the change, BofA hasn't given them any answers.
The only conclusion to draw is that Bank of America has made a money grab. They so screwed up their mortgage and home equity businesses that they're trying to make up their losses with your money.
Most people with balances cannot afford to pay them off. Why else would anyone carry a balance? So, the bank puts them even more behind the 8 ball than they were before.
This all leads me to the following points:
- Read your credit card account Terms & Conditions. If you do, at the very least, you'll endeavor to pay off your balances each and every month, NEVER carrying a balance. Credit card companies can change your T&Cs whenever they feel like it. All they have to do is notify you in writing. They use the most nondescript ways possible, hoping that you'll toss the notification in the trash without reading it.
- Be on the lookout for changes in your T&Cs. READ THEM.
- Watch your statements closely. Better yet, view your transactions online. As soon as you see something that doesn't match your expectations, call the company.
- Review the Consumerist for stories like yours. Often, there's enough of a wave of negative pub that the companies fold and agree to new terms.
- Use one company's stupid terms to your advantage: Negotiate a better deal with a competitor. While it seems that all the credit card companies are in cahoots, they really do want your balance, if you're a paying customer. They'll often do anything to get you to transfer balances and book your balance. The industry is not immune to cannibalization.
A Credit Card You Want to Toss