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Ellen Cannon
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Bank mergers and you

Bank mergers and you

Bankrate reporter Leslie McFadden contributed this entry.

Over the course of the last two weeks, Washington Mutual and Wachovia credit cardholders have certainly heard they will soon have new issuers, whether they like it or not. JPMorgan Chase bought WaMu's banking assets and customer deposits from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. after it collapsed -- the largest bank failure in U.S. history. Citigroup agreed to purchase Wachovia's banking operations.

"As a result of the deal, Chase becomes the number one credit card issuer (in terms of outstanding loans) in the United States," Chase Card Services spokeswoman Tanya Madison wrote in an e-mail to Ellen Cannon.

Bank spokespeople couldn't provide many details, but this is what they did say with regard to existing credit card accounts at WaMu and Wachovia:

"It's business as usual for WaMu customers," says Madison. "They'll continue to use their same cards, online banking tools and customer service phone numbers and mailing addresses."

At Wachovia, spokeswoman Mary Eshet echoed the business-as-usual response. "There are no immediate changes. Cards will continue to have the same terms and conditions and operate just as they have. After the transaction is complete, if there are any changes, they will be communicated well in advance to customers."

Of course, cardholders are not off the hook for outstanding balances. They must keep paying bills on time and sending them to the usual address until otherwise notified.

Account terms could change in the future, so try to pay down balances as much as possible.

As for rewards cardholders, it remains to be seen how accumulated points will be treated. "I think it is likely they will be preserved," Wachovia's Eshet says.

Read correspondence that comes from either issuer -- what looks like junk may be important. A single late or missed payment could hammer your credit scores.

Comments? Questions? E-mail plastic_rap@bankrate.com.

-- Posted: Oct. 2, 2008

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