January 2, 2007 1:16 AM
2007 Credit Card Trends
WSJ’s Aleksandra Todorova identified five trends in the credit card business. It is no surprise that most of the new trends involve getting more money from consumers in one way or another.
Balance transfer fees: Low-rate balance transfers can be a great money saver. Consider this: Transferring a $10,000 balance from an 18% APR card to one with a 5.99% APR — a common offer these days — will save you $6,253 in interest over the life of the loan, assuming a $200 monthly payment. You’ll be debt-free three years sooner.
Disappearing rewards? Americans love rewards. But as more consumers use credit cards in supermarkets, drug stores and gas stations — some of the most popular categories for bonus rewards — credit-card issuers have started pulling the offers back. Case in point: This year American Express eliminated the double points for everyday purchases on its charge cards, while Citibank scaled back some of its popular cards, including the Dividend Platinum Select Card from 5% cash back to 2%.
To pay, wave here. A new technology is gaining popularity — paying by a wave of your card. A chip is embedded in your credit card that communicates wirelessly with a reader attached to the register. Often you don’t have to sign for purchases of $25 or less.
Hooking your kids: New products, including Visa’s UpSide Card and MasterCard’s Allow Card, claim to help teach your kids about money. Teenagers get a cool card to flash at the mall, while parents can monitor and control their spending.
Creative fee increases: The good news: The federal Government Accountability Office recently issued an industry-practices report that details fee and rate increases, and recommends that the industry provide clearer disclosure of its credit terms.
The bad news is that the companies are still finding creative ways to raise fees, in part to offset shrinking profits from interest paid on balances. For example, within tiered-rate schedules, the card companies are increasing lower-tier fees without changing the top tier, says Linda Sherry, spokeswoman for advocacy group Consumer Action. Say a credit card charges a $15 late fee for balances up to $100; $29 for balances of $100 to $250; and $39 for balances of $250 and over. It jacks up the $15 and $29 fees, but not the $39 fee. This way, Ms. Sherry says, fewer people are likely to notice it and complain.
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