Welcome to your new, improved credit card bill. As you may have heard, recently passed regulations dictate that we change certain business practices. But even though our previous methods may have been designed to wring every possible cent out of our card members, we want to make sure you know that our top priority has always been you, the interest-paying customer.
With that in mind, following is a governmentally required summary of some of the changes you’d notice if it were possible for a regular human to decipher a credit card agreement:
1) From now on, rate increases will apply only to new charges. It used to be when we decided to raise our interest rates for some arbitrary reason — you sent your payment 10 minutes late, we didn’t like those unicorns on your checks, we got bored, etc. — those new rates would apply to the balances you’d been accruing since before those online gambling sites you love so much even existed. Now they will apply only to charges accrued after the increase, which, fortunately for us, will still be tremendous.
2) We can no longer raise rates in the first year of a new account. This means at 12:01 on the first day of your second year, expect your rate to pop like the cork out of a champagne bottle. (We drink a lot of champagne here.)
3) Annual fees can now be no more than 25 percent of your total credit line. In a related development, congratulations! We’ve raised your credit line by 150 percent. Information about fees relative to that increase will come in a separate letter that we’re hoping you throw away without actually opening.
4) The payment due date will now be the same each month, so you’ll know exactly when your payment is late, as opposed to before when you just had a general, nagging feeling of lateness that you would try to put out of your mind. The amount by which we raise your rate when you’re late will still be chosen completely at random, though.
5) People under 21 will now need their parents’ permission before they can get a credit card. We highly recommend parents do give permission, however, so that their teens will have a credit card in case of emergency, such as a big sale at Abercrombie & Fitch. Ha ha! Just a little credit card humor there. We know there’s never a big sale at Abercrombie & Fitch.
(Please note: This company in no way endorses teens sneaking their mother’s credit card from her purse and using that card to make extensive, debt-inducing online or in-store purchases. Although that is something a teen reading this could, technically, do, and it could be weeks or even months before anybody caught on. We’re just saying.)
6) We are now required by law to tell you that if you pay only the minimum balance each month, no matter how much you owe, you will be paying us back for the rest of your life. Then, after you’re gone, we will transfer that debt to your next of kin, and so on, until our dying sun expands to hundreds of times its normal size, engulfing all the planets that surround it. Whereas if you pay an extra $2.75 each month, your balance will be paid off in about a year and a half. We were sort of counting on nobody ever figuring that out.
In conclusion, we want to assure you that, despite what you may have heard about us spending the last six months looking for loopholes, we’re here to provide the best service possible to our customers. We want to make sure that you use your credit cards in the manner they were intended: as a convenient method for making reasonable purchases, not as a vehicle to live beyond your means and accrue possibly debilitating personal debt.
Also, they made us say that.
This column appeared originally in North Shore Sunday. Peter Chianca is a managing editor for GateHouse Media New England. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/pchianca. To receive At Large by e-mail, write to firstname.lastname@example.org, with the subject line “SUBSCRIBE.”