Friday, February 11, 2011

This Credit Card Has an Unbelievable 79.9% Interest Rate, People Don't Seem to Mind

This is absolutely bonkers!
Toni Riss had a credit card with a 79.9% interest rate. The 58-year-old woman from Texas thought she struck gold when she found the First Premier card, which is aimed specifically at consumers with poor credit. "I had an accident on a motorcycle, went through bankruptcy to pay for medical expenses and my credit went to hell in a hand basket, so I was looking for credit cards for people with bad credit" Riss said. They granted her a card with a $300 limit -- typical for new customers -- and a starting rate of 29.9%, which Riss said she considered decent given her credit score. But about six months after opening the card -- at the end of 2009 -- she received an unwelcome surprise in the mail. "I about had a heart attack when I got a disclosure notice saying that my starting rate of 29.9% was going up to 79.9%," said Riss. "It was ludicrous. Talk about a highway robbery." At that same time, First Premier Bank launched a new credit card with the sky-high 79.9% rate. The card proved popular with consumers, said First Premier Bankcard CEO Miles Beacom, but the performance was bad: "A lot of the people ran up the card, defaulted and went directly to charge off." As a result, they dropped the rate to 59.9%. "We also tested it at 23%, 33%, 45%, but 59.9% is the one that shows the best performance and where the organization can market the product," he said. Since then, nearly 700,000 people have signed up for the card -- and more than half of them carry a monthly balance. And yes, that rate is completely legal. The Card Act, which was passed in late 2009 to protect consumers from predatory lenders, only prevents issuers from raising rates retroactively. Credit card issuers are free to charge whatever rate they want at the front end.
In addition to the ridiculously high interest rate, this card costs you $135: There's a $45 processing fee to open the account; an annual fee of $30 for the first year -- $45 for every subsequent year; and a monthly servicing fee of $6.25 (or $75 a year). (Cash advances will cost you $5 or 3%, whichever is greater; late payments ring up at $35. The bank will also charge you $35 if a payment on your account is returned due to insufficient funds or any other reason.) Suze Orman's head probably exploded after learning about this.

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