Credit card changes: when a deal isn’t a deal

We like to think when we do business with a company, there’s a give-and-take relationship mutually beneficial to both. But when it comes to credit cards, consumers are not feeling the love.

Sources in MPR’s Public Insight Network told us recently about their credit cards terms, how the companies are changing them and the pros and cons of life on credit. We also asked them to tell us the highest and lowest interest rates they were paying on a card.

We tapped into a lot of frustration. We all live with “terms subject to change.” But even folks who pay off their balances each month were ticked to be told by their credit card company that rates were going up and credit lines dropping. Of the 50-plus responses we got, nearly every one said their card terms were changing — and not for the better.

Click on the map icons below to read stories of how people are dealing with credit and credit card issues and what happened when some called to complain.

Click the little box on the upper right hand corner of the map to see it in full screen.

My MPR colleague Mike Caputo got at these issues in a recent MinnEcon post.

What’s coming down the pike for credit card lenders are new regulations by the federal government as part of the Credit Card Reform Act. The measure passed by Congress last spring is designed to curb fee increases and curb abusive billing practices. The measures were set to take affect next February, but Congress is working on legislation to accelerate the timetable to December 1.

That was a response to what congressional leaders saw as an attempt by credit card lenders to raise fees and interest rates in advance of the law taking affect. Now Sen. Chris Dodd is calling for congressional action to freeze credit card rates until the new law takes affect.

Many of our Network sources were blindsided by the changes and their cascading effects.

“Almost all of my cards have increased their APR by a minimum of 2%. They have also reduced the level of credit available to just above my balance on the card,” Sandy Unger of Eagan told us.

That has reduced my credit ability, increased my debt ratios and thereby reduced my credit scores. I am trying to pay down debt as quickly as possible and refraining from using my cards wherever possible.

Leonard Cone of Burnsville told us he got a notice of a big rate increase coming on one card. He called the company. “I was told that due to adverse business conditions that they need to raise their rates.

I pointed out that their problems had nothing to do with me and that I would pay the entire account balance and asked to cancel my card. A ‘supervisor’ came on the line and apologized and offered to continue at the old rate. ”

Mark Yatckoske of St. Louis Park told us he reduced his credit card use as much as he can and is trying mostly to use cash. “All my credit cards jacked rates on existing balances even though I have been meeting the terms….If they want to raise rates on future purchases, they have that right, but a deal is a deal.”

11/3 UPDATE: Check out Caputo’s credit card Q&A on All Things Considered.

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Credit card company changed the terms of the deal on you? Share your story here or post below and help keep the conversation going.

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