Early next year, the new Credit Card Act will keep banks from a variety of unfair practices. Just one problem: what this act does not do is keep the card companies from jacking up your interest rate. “The credit card reforms outlawed some seriously abusive practices,” Harvard University professor Elizabeth Warren, an advocate for consumer financial protections told CNN Money. “But the cards will still be loaded with other tricks and traps.”
And just in time for the holidays. Gee, Merry Christmas.
So with credit card companies determined to keep you way down while hiking your interest rates way up, is there anything you can do to avoid these tricks and traps? To fight back? To get even, or maybe even (gasp!) get ahead? Well, taking on the big card companies is a toughie. This sniveling, swindling group of greedy power mongers forces even the most powerful Washington “leaders” to cower – as you can tell from the aforementioned watered-down legislation. Like the old joke goes: “Many banks have a new kind of Christmas club in operation. The new club helps you save money to pay for last year’s gifts.”
Your best bet to sidestep the fiasco: Don’t mess with plastic in the first place. With interest rates averaging 14%+, and it taking years upon years to pay off a few days of shopping while making minimum monthly payments, one can only wonder: “Can I be nice without being fiscally naughty?” The answer is “yes.” You just need to save up first and buy only that which you can afford – like a real Christmas club. And with SmartyPig and our cash boosts of up to 12% at your favorite retailers, there’s never been a better time to shy away from credit cards and fatten up your coffers, not the card companies’.
SVB from Wisebread posted an article on that site recently regarding why using cash is king. He writes, “I understand the need to wait on big purchases. Because I can no longer run out and get anything I want with a swipe of the plastic, I have to wait and save up the cash. This waiting period, highly recommended by many credit experts, has really worked for me. In most cases, the stuff I really wanted and didn’t really want because of a case of out-of-sight/out-of-mind for me after the waiting period.”
Buying stuff with plastic you don’t really need that you cannot really afford? Your credit card company is counting on it. But you’re smarter than that.
Credit card companies are realizing tremendous profit as they punish customers by increasing credit card rates at the worst possible time. Customers struggling to pay interest rates in the single digits are now seeing rates of 20%+ when they open up their card statements. According to David Ellis in a recent CNNMoney article, “Looks can be deceiving, especially in the credit card business.”
No matter if the relationship is in good standing or even if you pay your entire bill off every month, it’s a cash grab for Wall Street at the expense of Main Street, as congress moves to speed legislation to protect those who need it most. And with the holidays coming, and recent statistics from Consumer Reports indicating that 13.5 million Americans are still carrying debt incurred from last year’s holiday season, our leaders in Washington cannot move fast enough.
Financial expert and “Today Show” contributor Jean Chatzky has recommended socking away $100 each week starting now until December to ease the eventual pain caused by seasonal spending. Chatzky smartly points out that, by setting a goal like this and sticking to it, by the time the holidays roll around, credit cards might not be the necessary evil they have been in the past.
We could not agree more, and, in fact, this sentiment is exactly what we here at SmartyPig stand for. With expenses like gifts and travel piling up, there has never been a better time to take back control. Credit cards are doing more harm than good, even to the most loyal and responsible customers. Thus, there’s no time like the present to stand up for yourself, get back to the basics and finally own the holidays. A little bit at a time can definitely make a whole lot of difference.