Thought credit was A-1 -- Now this!

Discussion in 'Credit Talk' started by StarStuff, Sep 7, 2003.

  1. StarStuff

    StarStuff Well-Known Member

    I posted this on MSN's "Your Money" credit discussion board; I'd like to get this group's take on my situation, too. Advice I've gotten so far has included contacting OCC if the situation isn't resolved to my satisfaction, and contacting the consumer affairs division of my State Attorney General's office with copies of my letters and cardmember agreement.


    I've got a credit situation that has me suffering the three F's: flabberasted, furious and frustrated.

    I have five major credit cards, one Sears Premier card and one retail card (HRS Retail Services -- Nautilus). My credit limits are fairly modest, ranging from about $1200 to about $5500. I have paid off and closed two accounts, a JCPenney's and an Associates Visa, about two years ago. My credit history on these accounts reaches back about four years.

    I have never missed a payment or been late with a payment on ANY of my accounts, I have never gone over my credit limit on any account, I have never declared bankruptcy, I have never had a credit counseling service intercede with any creditors on my behalf. In short, I have a sterling credit record, and I've worked very hard to keep it that way.

    This month I received my Chase Mastercard bill and saw that my Preferred Customer Pricing rate of 9.49 percent (prime plus 5.49 percent) had been raised to 23.99 percent! After I got my heart started back up, I called Chase Cardmember Services and was informed that a routine review performed in May had indicated that I had little or no available credit, and that a notice of the increase had been sent to me with my May statement.

    I never got any notice from Chase that they were going to do this. Moreover, my cardmember agreement states that I would retain Preferred Customer Pricing unless a) I failed to make at least the minimum payment due on any of my accounts, b) I went over my Chase account credit limit or c) any payment to Chase was returned for insufficient funds.

    I was told that no one could handle the issue on the phone with me, that I would have to submit any protest in writing to Chase's Correspondence and Inquiries department. I did this, in detail, and sent carbon copies to the president and the vice-president of Cardmember Services. In these letters I said that I had contacted CCCSNY for advice and was told that if my cardmember agreement stated that my pricing would remain at preferred status unless I violated the agreement, which I did not, that I should wait for Chase's reply and, if my account was not returned to its preferred status and the excess interest charges credited, I should file a complaint with the New York State Attorney General's office. Moreover, I never got a notice of their intent to change the terms of the cardmember agreement and therefore had no chance to refuse to accept the changes.

    This is where the situation stands. Does anyone have any advice beyond what I've already done to get this situation resolved? This account has a credit limit of $2,000 and the balance is around $1,400.

    My major credit cards, I'll admit, are up there, but not completely maxed out (they all have at least $250 to $350 available credit remaining). I only have a few hundred dollars on my Sears account, with over $1000 available, and the HRS (Nautilus) account has over $4500 in available credit.

    I can see where they would be justified in looking at my current debt load and deny credit if their formulas didn't come out in my favor, but I've been a Chase cardmember for three years and have never missed a payment. In fact, I often made more than minimum payments on many of the cards at different times, Chase included.

    Right now I'm laid off (since July 1) and making minimum payments only on all my accounts, but I AM making payments and intend to continue doing so. But I have to admit, this kind of treatment is making me feel like telling them all where to go and just declaring bankruptcy. If doing all the right things still gets you penalized so heavily, what's the incentive?
  2. sam

    sam Well-Known Member


    I have 200K in lines now, and was repriced by citi, needless to say after yanking a SIGNIFICANT BT away for 3-4 months, they have re-instated the rate.

    Its a bluff man. If you are really a valuable custom, charge alot and pay it off, that makes you valuable. You don't have to pay a dime of interest to be a TOP QUALITY customer.

    They bluff you by sending blanket increases out, you fight back, by taking their profit away.

    The computers make these decisions now and i've excellent success always getting the creditors on their knees.

    Providian was an exception, but they suck my saltz nutz. Same with household. The real credit card folks know what a valuable customer is (and isn't).

    Work it! is all i can say.
  3. StarStuff

    StarStuff Well-Known Member

    Thanks for the encouragement, Sam!
  4. SoParkDiva

    SoParkDiva Well-Known Member

    Write a letter to Chase through Planet Feed back and make sure to share your letter in the public section. It's okay to cut & paste the post above because that explains the problem clearly.

    The PFB letters go straight to the top and someone from Chase will contact you to discuss your letter.
  5. StarStuff

    StarStuff Well-Known Member

    Great idea! Thanks!

    I should wait a few weeks to give Chase a chance to respond to the letters I sent. I cc'd their vice-president and president of Cardmember Services, since I have letters with their signatures that also contain the Preferred Customer Pricing requirements.

    Whether the actual addressees will ever see my letters is another matter, however. I know secretaries (excuse me, administrative assistants) are paid to be adept at keeping their bosses from being bothered with "trivial matters." I fully expect a form letter on Chase policy that doesn't come close to addressing the contents of my letter.

    Does anybody know whether there are any members of Congress that are involved in credit reform legislation?
  6. SoParkDiva

    SoParkDiva Well-Known Member

    Why wait? Send the PFB now and you have a better chance of not receiving a "form letter" from them. Instead, you will receive a phone call from that administrative assistant. Here's the link to get you started. :)
  7. StarStuff

    StarStuff Well-Known Member

    Re: Thought credit was A-1 -- Now t

    I will take your advice. You guys seem to a) know what you're talking about and b) feel as I do that there is a purpose to be served in fighting back.

    The thread I started on MSN's "Your Money" message board has degenerated into a string of people telling me I'm an immature, jobless deadbeat looking to get out of paying my bills. They say that the credit card companies hold all the aces, and laugh at people like me.

    One also said that the "people on CreditNet can be as militant as they like." Apparently this group has a reputation!

    Anybody who's interested can read the thread in question here:

    I really appreciate the help, suggestions and support I'm getting from the CreditNet boards. Thank you so much.
  8. jlynn

    jlynn Well-Known Member

    Re: Re: Thought credit was A-1 -- Now t

    Egads I avoid that place like the plague. Makes my stomach turn--what they do to people. What you describe is typical.

    Look at it this way - if a place as bad as that thinks we're bad, then we must be good :)
  9. SoParkDiva

    SoParkDiva Well-Known Member

    Re: Re: Thought credit was A-1 -- Now t

    He's right you know. :/
    CC co's do spend a lot of money on market research and they identify trends outlined in your original post. They don't care if you lost your job. What they do care about is the minimum payments you are making but your balance keeps rising closer to your limit.

    Most people do make more than the required minimum payment and they monitor their credit utilization. CC co's don't make money off people like them. They make money off people like you, unfortunately.

    I do not like the MSN site. Those people are uninformed about their rights and that makes them ignorant. Despite the 1 or 2 bad apples here, I prefer the warm, friendly, family atmosphere of Creditnet. :)
  10. StarStuff

    StarStuff Well-Known Member

    Re: Re: Thought credit was A-1 -- N

    I'm glad to know my instincts were right. I felt so bad after reading the things those people said to me. I don't know why it should bother me that total strangers, who don't know me or my life situation, should think and say such negative things, but it does hurt. And I'm not in desperate financial straits, like some other people out there who come to boards like that, and like this one, to find some way out of the prison of debt.

    I can certainly understand, after experiencing the negativity on MSN, why people with really bad debt problems would just give up and go bankrupt. Or worse. You know, people have been known to kill themselves because they're so deeply in debt that they think they'll never be free. Who can tell what thoughtless, cruel remark will be the one that breaks the camel's back? If they can't make a helpful suggestion, then they should just shut up.

    People's self-esteem takes enough of a beating when they're caught in the credit trap. Taking responsibility for your actions is a lot different from blaming yourself for being weak and stupid. Being blamed by others makes the feelings even worse.

    So again, folks, thank you so much for making me feel like I'm among friends here! I, too, will avoid MSN "like the plague" from now on.
  11. DanS

    DanS Well-Known Member

    Re: Re: Thought credit was A-1 -- N

    Star, I think it's great that you kick in and point to the original terms. The whole "agreement by changing the terms and if you don't cancel, you accept" needs to be challenged.

    I suspect the reason they can do this is because you have a variable rate. IOW, it "varies" and they can set whatever they like. I'm not certain on this, haven't read my fine print, but that's my take after reading a few articles about this trend.

    As pointed out above, your usage patterns fall into an overall pattern that they're worried about.

    Let me offer a suggestion that will cost you just a few phone calls - ask to have your CL raised. When you ask, make sure they do NOT do a hard inquiry.

    Your balances sound like they're high in relationship to the CL (credit limit). "Just" a 1500 balance on a 2000 CL is 75% utllization.

    Generally, anything over 50% is seen as a warning, and the average number is like 30%. If you can get/keep them under 30%, that keeps 'em happy.
  12. SoParkDiva

    SoParkDiva Well-Known Member

    Re: Re: Thought credit was A-1 -- N

    As pointed out above, asking the CC co's to increase your CL will be beneficial to you especially since you don't have a job right now. It will help your utilization percentage and keep your head above water until you get a job. There's nothing worse than maxing out your cards and only making minimum payments every month.
  13. StarStuff

    StarStuff Well-Known Member

    Re: Re: Thought credit was A-1 -- N

    Yeah, now I know that! It would have been nice to know that the CC companies did business that way beforehand.

    Like so many others (the majority, I'm sure), I thought that by making payments on time and not going over my credit limits, I was being a good customer and that was what would keep my credit rating good. Absolutely nowhere did any of these companies state -- even in the legalese that they presume 99 percent of their customers will never read, let alone understand -- that they would raise your interest rates if you spent more than X percent of your credit limit.

    As I said when I posted on MSN's boards, I accept responsibility for the debt I incurred and I was aware of the cost of that credit when I incurred it. If I didn't feel I could handle the payments, I wouldn't have made the charges. I'm not disputing the company's right to be paid back, with interest. It's the amount of that interest that's got my dander up.

    My beef is that I was not aware that there were undisclosed conditions -- i.e., the impact it would have on my accounts and my credit rating if I maxed out, or came close to maxing out, some of my cards -- and it apparently is perfectly legal for the CC companies to pull this rate hike on unsuspecting customers.

    That's a piece of consumer credit reform that someone in authority really should address. That's why I was wondering if there were any congressmen or senators involved in credit legislation.

    I feel like I made a contract without being made aware of all the facts. I thought I was honoring my agreement and now I've been blindsided by something I never saw coming.

    I can understand why, looking at my debt ratio, they might say that I'm spending above my head. Since when is it any of their business? I haven't defaulted on any of my accounts, and how will increasing my interest rate make them any safer against my defaulting? A more sensible approach, if that's their concern, would be to reduce my credit limit to my present debt or even below, so that I wouldn't be able to incur more debt until I'd paid down the amount I owe them.

    It seems pretty obvious that these drastic interest rate increases are a ploy to generate more income for the CC companies, pure and simple. They aren't protecting themselves from loss by doing this. What they are doing is penalizing me for something I haven't done and which they have no reason to expect I will do, based on several years' worth of my credit history.
  14. StarStuff

    StarStuff Well-Known Member

    Re: Re: Thought credit was A-1 -- N

    Um, I don't understand the rationale of asking for credit line increases when I'm not employed. Also, don't requests for increases put notices on your credit report(s) that inquiries were made?

    Another question: I hear "hard inquiry" and "soft inquiry" and I don't understand the difference. Couldn't find definitions in the Newbie FAQs -- maybe it's just getting late and my eyes are blurring!

  15. GEORGE

    GEORGE Well-Known Member

    Re: Re: Re: Thought credit was A-1 -- N


    You can ask for a credit limit increase with RESTRICTIONS...NO "HARD" INQUIRY--OR FORGET IT!!!


    Unless they ask for employment...99% of the time they won't (for accounts that are already open)...DON'T WORRY ABOUT IT!!!
  16. StarStuff

    StarStuff Well-Known Member

    Re: Re: Re: Thought credit was A-1

    But what exactly is a "hard inquiry," and what's a "soft inquiry"?

    Also, are you guys recommending that I ask Chase Manhattan, the ones that just jacked my rate up to 23.99% because I'm too maxed out on my accounts, for a credit line increase? My God, they might come right to my house just to laugh at me! :-(
  17. GEORGE

    GEORGE Well-Known Member

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Thought credit was A-1



    ALL "SOFT"
  18. GEORGE

    GEORGE Well-Known Member

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Thought credit was A-1

  19. bizwiz41

    bizwiz41 Well-Known Member

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Thought credit was A-1

    Jumping in here StarStuff;

    One question: Why are you keeping this account open?

    My advice is to write them (Certified Mail-Return Receipt Requested) and tell them that if they do not return your rate to 9.49% (as per agreement) you will close account, and file complaints with you state's AG office.

    StarStuff, if you have NOT violated ANY of the agreement stipulations, they have most likely violated the Truth In Lending Act somewhere. The other posts are correct, they have spotted an opportunity to make more $$ off you, period. They see you credit balance rising, and they see only minimum payments coming in. At 9.49% they are losing $$ in "opportunity costs" with you. have not violated your cardholder agreement it appears, and most likely the "notice" you received was the "standard" print on the back of your statement(!).

    It is all about $$, I am in the financial and customer relations industry. "Valued" customers are now calculated by complex formulas and databases. You have now crossed a line in the "Lifetime Customer Income Value" analysis. In todays high tech business, computer software decides how "valued" a customer you are.

    My advice, get another card if you need some credit, 2nd write them and let them know you will litigate (that will change the "value" of retaining you), after a prudent time for them to respond to your first letters.
  20. StarStuff

    StarStuff Well-Known Member

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Thought credit was

    Hi, Bizwiz (I like that!),

    Thanks for your post. It makes me feel good because your advice is just what I did in my initial letters to Chase's Correspondence and Inquiries department, with carbons to the Cardmember Services president and vice-president. (BTW, when I called Cardmember Services back to verify that the names I had were correct, they weren't sure! Maybe I should pass that tidbit along to upper management as well.) I didn't send the letters certified, though. I hadn't discovered CreditNet yet and didn't know any better. :-( But I just sent a complaint through Planet Feedback, too, on the advice of one of the gang here on CreditNet.

    I definitely did comply with my cardmember agreement, and I've also got three letters from April 2002 -- two from the vice-president, one from the president -- restating the Preferred Customer Pricing terms and with absolutely NO OTHER CONDITIONS stated. I also have every single statement I've ever gotten from Chase, and there's nothing on any of them, including the May statement, saying my rate would increase if my balances got too close to the limits. I had no notion that this was even a consideration. They never mentioned it ANYWHERE.

    In answer to your question about why I keep the card, well, at the moment it would be a real hardship to pay it off and would jeopardize my ability to maintain at least minimum payments on my other accounts. I was laid off in July and have to be careful, though I have some savings and unemployment insurance to help tide me over. But, too, I'd hate to lose my Chase card, even though it's got a low credit line, because up until now I've been happy with them and their service. But I won't quit fighting the increase they foisted on me. They raised my rate higher than some people's who have missed umpteen payments, gone way over limit and done everything but shoot the CEO's dog!

    If I have to close the account, I will. I do have other cards: I have an AT&T Universal, a Citi Platinum, a Bank of America Visa and a Household Bank card. I planned to pay off the Household and AT&T and cancel them both, keeping the "big name" cards and paying them down. But now my choice may be made for me.

    I am SO GLAD I found this forum! You people have helped so much, just raising my spirits and helping me to stay proactive on this thing. I can't tell you how much I appreciate your input. :)

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