Is there really such a thing as a credit card with a fixed interest rate or is that a misnomer because card issuers can change the terms of your account at any time for any reason. Correct?
It's sort of a half-truth, because there's really no such thing as a fixed rate card when it comes to credit cards. What we've seen with a lot of customers who've been complaining recently about having their interest rate increased on this type of account is that they did have a fixed rate for two to 10 years. The risk you take with credit cards is that terms can change and they often do.
Some credit card issuers are tracking where consumers shop and whether they use their credit cards to pay for things like groceries in an attempt to assess risk. Do you think this practice will become more commonplace as a way of doing business and if so, isn't it a bit Orwellian?
You know it's pretty shocking to hear about this coming from credit card companies. Although consumers are used to having rather limited privacy when it comes to our financial information via the credit reporting system and other systems like that, I think this is something that kind of goes a little bit beyond that. It makes sense from the credit card's perspective because they happen to be in a really defensive posture right now. They're trying to protect themselves against rising defaults and we're seeing this even in the prime credit cards like with American Express and Discover. I would be surprised if this is something that doesn't get regulated pretty quickly within the next couple of years. It seems like something that consumer advocates would really jump all over because any time that you have data being used in that way, there should be some sort of regulation attached to it. I think it's not widely known yet. With any consumer issue in the credit markets, it always takes a while for regulators to respond to the issue.
Do you think the credit card industry should be more tightly regulated across the board to protect consumers or is it fine the way it is?
I'm all for some more regulation with regard to the financial product. I think we've really learned this lesson the hard way the last couple of years. People aren't reading the fine print. You know now we have this Schumer's box on credit cards which has been a vast improvement where you can see the rates and fees. But is it enough? Are people really reading that? Do they really understand how these things work? Not necessarily. I think that the sort of buyer-beware-type programs that we've had in terms of regulation have been good but they haven't been enough. I hope that in the next couple of years we are going to see a reversal of some of the deregulations in terms of credit card rates and fees and then hopefully a push to get some of these policies that are really harmful to consumers out of the marketplace.