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I always try look for the bright side when I’m feeling like this fight is never-ending, or that I am alone against a giant monster, the credit card industry.

A ScrippsNews article entitled, “Fighting credit-card changes,” by Claudia Buck of the Sacramento Bee typifies the kind of thing that on some days, drives me crazy. 

My wife, who has just had major surgery, cannot lift, climb, bend or drive, is still back in Tennessee.  Meanwhile, here I am in North Carolina, because this is where I am now employed.  Our house has not sold.  Realtors have “guided us” for over a year to make continual, substantial price reductions, but here we are languishing on the real estate market due to a down economy.  (One day this will be over, and after we quit paying double for housing, I’ll be able to pay off Chase — although I won’t be using Chase or Washington Mutual for a new mortgage, ever.)

A few minutes ago, my wife called to let me know that one of the smoke alarms is chirping (in the master bedroom of all places, where she is predominately confined).  Woulda Coulda Shoulda,  I did not change the batteries in all of the alarms throughout the house when I was back for my visit (caring for her after surgery), last week.  So I admit, this is “one of those days.”

Ms. Buck’s article illustrated the example of the Chase’s change in terms, requiring the new 5% minimum payment, but like so many we have seen, failed to dig deep enough and bring to light some very relevant facts or adequate context.  Toward the beginning of her piece, Ms. Buck wrote:

Last month, retired Sacramento, Calif., city employee Terry Moreno got a double whammy on her Chase credit card: The minimum payment more than doubled, to $486, and a new $10 monthly charge was tacked on.

However, later in the article, Ms. Buck added:

Moreno, for instance, was able to reach a compromise with her card issuer: She got her minimum payment restored to $197, but at a higher interest rate.

Unfortunately, we here on this site already know that as is alleged in many of the (12) class action lawsuits filed thus far, the anecdote above and so-called “compromise” amounted to an outrageous act of “bait and switch” as was perpetrated by Chase.  This was no “compromise”; it was Chase abrogating the terms of its original promotional offer for a “fixed APR Until the balance is paid in full” loan to Terry Moreno, along with hundreds of thousands of other account holders.  If she had a 3.99% rate and the higher rate (widely publicized as Chase’s “alternative”), then Ms. Moreno’s rate has doubled (“door number 3” — great for Chase executives).

Ms. Buck also stated, “The bad news: It’s perfectly legal.”  We don’t think so, and neither do the firms that have filed all of the lawsuits. 

Given that this is not one of my best days, I really want to thank “Mary,” whoever she may be, for adding a comment beneath Ms. Buck’s article, stating:

Some details that may be missing from Moreno’s experience with Chase — The $10 monthly fee and increased minimum payment, to 5% of the balance up from 2%, is one of three options Chase reportedly is giving to select cardholders. Another option is to accept a rate of 7.99 percent until 2011 and continue making 2% payments without the $10 fee. It sounds like Moreno accepted this option. The third option is to pay off the balance in full. See ChangeInTerms.com for more information.

Relative to Mary’s comment, I might add that I think that Chase is purposely using certain words that are confusingly similar, such as “fee,” or “service charge” (shortened to “charge” in Ms. Buck’s piece), when it is a pivotal fact and therefore not merely a matter of semantics that this “is a finance charge.”  Indeed, this is the means by which Chase violated its original promotional offering and promise of a fixed rate (and as far as I know, I am the first person to point this out as a strategic error on the part of Chase with its own fine print in my certified letter of December 3, 2008, sent to Chase Card Services CEO Gordon Smith). 

I’ve also noticed confusion on the part of journalists as well as account holders between the terminology “options” versus “opt out.”  (It is quite possible that customer service representatives at Chase are also using the term “opt out” in a manner that is deceptive; for instance, as the post here illustrates: “Customer service reps are claiming that the only way to ‘opt out’ is to pay your balance in full AND close the account before January 1st.”)   Again, I think this confusion is to the delight of Chase and to the detriment of account holders (and the media).  An “opt out,” was described by Chase Card Services executives in Congressional testimony as an example to demonstrate that Chase treated customers “fairly” by allowing those customers to reject new terms, and continue to pay out their accounts under existing terms.  As we know, Chase spokespersons have clearly stated, that this change in terms under discussion here came with no such “opt out” as was portrayed in the testimony.

I always try look for the bright side when I’m feeling like this fight is never-ending, or that I am alone against a giant monster, the credit card industry.  On my lesser days I see that credit card companies have such enormous power and influence over the media and “our” government, that no matter how egregious and abusive and unethical it may be, articles are published without any apparent questioning of the details and facts.  So, Mary made me feel better. 

Even though (without diminishing Mary’s contribution to my energy level spirits on this day, whatsoever), I also found a “perk-me-up” site that mitigated my distress over Ms. Buck’s omissions.  To Ms. Buck’s credit, she did publish another piece entitled, “Squeeze-the-Banker dolls,” as well.  It discusses a very humorous instance whereby Creative Feed, an ad agency with offices in New York and San Francisco, developed the “ultimate squeezable stress reliever” (this gives me ideas for cards, dart boards, and other such products — don’t forget the protest t-shirt kit I’ve already developed).  I’d love to meet this agency’s partners one day.  Heck, I’d like them to work on this change in terms issue.  I will certainly mention their work in my upcoming Master of Entrepreneurship degree program course (under development) on “Entrepreneurial Marketing and Promotion.”

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