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A daily look at what we buy, how we spend, and the companies that do right - and wrong - by their customers.

Credit Cards - All posts tagged Credit Cards

  • Sep 20, 2011
    1:15 PM ET

    Citi’s Credit Cards Want You. Should You Want Them Back?

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    Citibank mailed 346 million offers to North American customers in the third quarter, The Wall Street Journal reports Tuesday. “That is more than one for every man, woman and child in the U.S.,” the paper reports. Experts say this is a good time for some attractive credit card deals.

    But quantity is one thing. Quality is another. In that aggressive mailing campaign, Citi is pushing the Simplicity Card, Thank You Card and Executive AAdvantage – and many more that are big on rewards. Experts say they are often times not appropriate for “revolvers” – those who don’t pay off their credit card balance every month.

    We asked five experts for their evaluation: Odysseas Papadimitriou, the chief executive of Cardhub.com; Beverly Harzog, a credit expert for Credit.com; Ben Woolsey, director of marketing and consumer research at CreditCards.com; Edmund Mierzwinski, consumer program director at the U.S. Public Interest Research Groups; and Curtis Arnold, founder of CardRatings.com.

  • Sep 13, 2011
    4:29 PM ET

    Credit-Card Debt Is on the Rise Again

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    After a few years of austerity, credit card debt is rising again. According to data released this week by credit-card comparison web site CardHub.com, consumers racked up $18.4 billion in credit card debt during the second quarter of 2011, 66% more than what they amassed during the second quarter of last year and more than four times what they did two years ago.

    At the current rate, consumers are on track to end the year with $54 billion extra in credit card debt, following a $9 billion increase last year. That suggests consumers are amassing credit card debt at a faster rate than ever, says Odysseas Papadimitriou, chief executive at CardHub.com.

    This spike, however, occurred while the economy was still on the upswing and consumers were feeling relatively good about their financial outlook. That has changed in the last few months, and the volatility in the stock market and unpredictability in Europe could cause consumers to reverse course in the third quarter, says Papadimitriou.

  • Sep 1, 2011
    11:51 AM ET

    New Credit Cards Target the Elite

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    A gold card just isn’t what it used to be, now that card companies are making premium cards available to, well, just about anyone.

    But for shoppers looking for something truly exclusive to carry in their wallet, a card that keeps out the riffraff, say, banks have created new, super-premium cards. Among the contenders:

    JP Morgan Palladium. Launched this spring for the financial services firm’s high-net-worth private banking clients, the card is made from an estimated $1,000 worth of actual palladium. For an annual fee of $595, the card offers no spending limit and a long list of benefits, including free first-class upgrades on British Airways when you buy a full-fare business-class ticket, a free hour of flight time with the purchase of a 25-hours at a partner company that charters private jets by the hour, unlimited access to many airport lounges… and two points per dollar spent on travel, one point per dollar on everything else.

  • Aug 17, 2011
    1:18 PM ET

    Skipping the Mortgage to Pay Your Credit Card

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    Fewer consumers are up to their eyeballs in credit card debt these days — but for some, a lower credit card balance is coming at the expense of the mortgage.

    The average consumer has an average of $6,355 in credit card debt, according to a CreditKarma.com report released today — 18% less than this time last year. Consumers are getting better about paying on time, too. Last week, a study from credit reporting bureau Experian found 20% fewer consumers are 60 days late on their credit card payments than were in 2007, while a separate study from TransUnion this week said the 0.6% who are 90 days late is the lowest in 17 years.

  • Jul 1, 2011
    6:00 AM ET

    An Easy Way to Save 15% Traveling Abroad

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    Americans traveling to Europe have been steadily getting less for their dollar since last June, but there’s a surprising way to get more bang for your buck: pay by credit card.

    A new study from CardHub.com tracked exchange rates and fees for different methods, including paying with a credit card, exchanging cash at a U.S. bank before your trip and doing so at exchange chain Travelex, which has ATMs and locations at airports, ports and stores. Credit cards came out way ahead of the competition.

    Despite their reputation for high foreign transaction fees, credit cards were still an average 7.9% cheaper than bank exchanges and 14.7% cheaper than Travelex. “I was personally shocked at the difference,” says Odysseas Papadimitrious, the founder of CardHub.com. “If you took the worst credit card in terms of foreign exchange fees and used that instead of getting money from a major bank, or worse, from the airport, you would be saving a lot of money.”

  • Jun 30, 2011
    8:51 AM ET

    Banks Get a Break From the Fed. Will You?

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    Every time a consumer uses a debit card at a store, the retailer pays the card issuer. That fee – called a swipe or interchange fee – was supposed to drop from about 44 cents to 12 cents on July 21, according to recent government regulations. But yesterday, the Federal Reserve softened its position: the fees will still drop, but only to around 24 cents.

    No one’s happy. Consumer advocates expected the fee to be lower. So did the retail industry. The banking industry, which is the relative winner, says the Fed’s decision recognizes the range of debit-card costs they incur, but they still think the swipe-fee cap is too low.

    Here’s our question: In anticipation of the more austere fee restrictions, banks have been raising fees on bank accounts and slashing debit card rewards programs to offset what they say will be the loss in revenue. So now that that’s not going to be so bad, are they going to roll back the new fees?

  • Jun 21, 2011
    1:03 PM ET

    Cash Discounts Multiply

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    Paying by plastic may no longer be a shopper’s best — or cheapest — choice.

    Merchants are offering more discounts to consumers who pay with cash, and adding more strings to those who want to pay with plastic, reports The Wall Street Journal. Notably, Walgreens Co. recently cut the amount of cash back consumers can receive on a debit card purchase from $40 to $20. Other stores are refusing to process credit or debit transactions that fall below the $10 threshold allowed under recent legislation.

    Retailers scored a victory a few weeks ago when the Senate voted to cap at 12 cents the fee a store pays each time in accepts a debit card. Now, merchants are taking advantage of the provisions in that law and other legislation to price fairly based on the fees they pay to process a transaction, says Rachel Wolf, a spokeswoman for Merchant Payments Coalition, an industry group. “Consumers will start to see this summer that they can actually save money by using those less expensive payment methods,” she says. The minimums protect small businesses from paying big fees on small transactions.

  • May 13, 2011
    12:18 PM ET

    Another Reason to Stop Using Your Debit Card

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    In yet another example of how vulnerable our personal data really is, criminals have stolen customer debit card data from 90 PIN pads at Michaels arts-and-crafts stores across 20 states. But it also raises another question: Why are we still so attached to our debit cards? Why not cash or credit, both of which offer more protection than a debit card?

    If you report your lost debit card within two business days after you realize it’s missing, federal law places a $50 liability limit on debit card losses which is soaked up by the card issuer. But, if you don’t notice money is missing from your bank account within two business days, you may be liable for up to $500 and, if you don’t notice the theft of your card within 60 days, you may never be reimbursed.

    Credit cards, on the other hand, limit a customer’s liability to $50 – even if a thief maxes out your credit limit. Card companies can do this because they place the responsibility on merchants to prevent fraud; if a stolen card is used, the card company simply doesn’t pay the merchant. Bad for merchants, but good for consumers. If you report the loss before it’s used, you pay nothing.

  • Apr 27, 2011
    5:19 PM ET

    New Amex Cards Scrimp On Gas Rewards

    American Express says its new Blue Cash credit card system will simplify the rewards system for consumers. But there is one big change that’s not so complicated: it’s cutting the cash-back for gas purchases.

    The current non-fee Blue Cash card offered 1% cash-back on “everyday purchases” or 5% when you spend $6,500 on your card. Everyday purchases include those made at supermarkets, drugstores – and gas stations.

    American Express is rolling out two new Blue Cash credit cards. Those on the existing Blue Cash card won’t be forced to migrate to either of the new cards, but American Express will stop marketing the old card.

About Pay Dirt

  • Pay Dirt examines the millions of consumer decisions Americans make every day: What to buy, how much to pay, whether to rave or complain. Lead written by Quentin Fottrell, the blog examines these interactions, providing readers with news, insight and tips on shopping, spending, customer service, and companies that do right – and wrong – by their customers. Send items, questions and comments to quentin.fottrell@dowjones.com or tweet @SMPayDirt.