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March 16, 2010

Good Credit

Okay, this is going to be a long, ranty one. So, settle in.

I've been a member of the AFTRA/SAG Federal Credit Union since the '90s. They have my checking account, my savings account, my stepson's Coogan account, my husband's checking account, my husband's savings account, and until today my credit card account. They also once had a signature loan for me. They're good. Except for today.

Seems the AFTRA/SAG Federal Credit Union credit cards are under new management this year and, just like the last time they went under new management four years ago, I didn't receive a bill. Yup. It's a total scam. They change companies and then the second or third bill doesn't come, so you are late with your payment and they can lop on fees, offer you the opportunity to pay by phone, and offer to enroll you in auto-pay plans. Awesome. I remember this well. It happened in late 2005, when the credit card went under new management the last time.

So, February's bill never came and I was traveling and therefore totally didn't notice that I hadn't written a check 'til Miss Henry called me last week to tell me I hadn't. Crap. So, I do a payment by phone immediately and ask her what repercussions this late payment has on my account (increase in APR, fees, etc.). She assures me that the only charge is this $39 fee, which she can reverse since I haven't been late with a payment since 2005, when--strangely enough--the company change happened last time. Awesome. Charge reversed. February bill paid. March bill on its way with the fee showing, but she assures me it's been reversed. Gives me a confirmation number. Yada yada yada.

Today's mail includes a letter from the credit card company ("cardmember services" -- no company name anywhere to be found) stating that "Because you have not consistently paid the minimum monthly payment on or before the due date, we have reduced your credit limit." They've reduced it to my current balance. I usually keep a good five grand available on any credit card, because it's not only good for my credit rating, but it's also always nice to know I have that kind of credit available to me, should an emergency hit.

Let's note for the record here that I have a FICO score of 788.


I am an excellent customer, if you are a bank. I always pay my bills early (except for when my credit card company inexplicably neglects to send a statement, apparently). I never bounce checks. I am your worst nightmare, if you want to ding customers with fees, because I will almost never give you the opportunity to do so. However, if you want a customer who will always pay her bills and carry a balance so you can collect interest, while never costing you in collections, I am your dream come true.

I am also planning on buying a house this year, so I don't need any drama where my credit score is concerned. I am looking forward to my 4.5% home loan after putting only 3% down, plus first-time buyer credit. I am not dicking around, here.

So, when I got a letter telling me that my credit limit had been slammed down to the current balance I carry on my card, I made a phone call.

First there was Marie, who told me that perhaps Miss Henry hadn't been made aware that my credit limit had been lowered, and that's why she didn't disclose it last week when I asked what ramifications existed due to missing February's payment. She then transferred me to Carmen, since what I wanted was a reversal of that cap. She couldn't offer me that.

Neither could Carmen. She said she could certainly put in a request to increase my credit limit, but I'm no dummy. I told her that was not what I wanted, because that would trigger a notice in my credit report that I was seeking access to more credit, just before buying a home. No thank you. That makes me look like a bad risk. Not interested. I just want y'all to undo the punishment you saw fit to bestow upon me without notice, last week.

The call got escalated to a supervisor, Kent. (And let me state for the record that I handled this call VERY well. Sometimes I get hot-headed. Sometimes I yell. Today, I did not. I am very proud of that. Especially because I have every reason to yell.) I stayed calm and repeatedly asked for what I wanted: A reversal of the punishment they put on my account. A return to the credit limit I have enjoyed--yet never hit--in nearly a decade with this credit card.


Not gonna happen. They can put in a request for a credit limit increase--which will show up on my credit report as consumer requested--but there's no guarantee I'll get it (bullshit. I'll get it. I'll get it and more. I have excellent credit. They want me to have access to--and to use--many more thousands of dollars on their card than I already do).


So, I tell Kent not to bother with that request, as I'll simply close my card and transfer the balance elsewhere, rather than giving another penny to this ridiculous company that wants to punish someone with a fucking 788 FICO score.


Anyone wanna tell me a great credit card company that loves new, excellent customers who want to transfer over thousands of dollars?

(Yes, I understand that this will also show up on my credit report, and probably does me more harm than "requesting" the increased credit limit. So, what I'll probably just end up doing is closing the account so it shows up "closed; paying as per cardmember agreement" and wait for a credit card company to send me an incentive application that includes 2.9% APR for balance transfers. That's how I closed my Chase Visa, years ago.)

But man, I'm so fucking mad I could spit tacks. This is why we hate the banks, people! You punish good customers in ways that screw their credit rating. You put us between a rock and a hard place and remind us why stuffing money in a mattress is never a bad idea.

Posted by bonnie at March 16, 2010 1:05 PM


Bon - Get a Discover card. It is the absolute best ever -- ALWAYS on the customer's side...ALWAYS. I have been a Discover card holder since 1988. I have a FICO like yours...they respect you. AND YOU GET MONEY BACK!!! What could be bad?
If you want, I'll see if I can have THEM send you something.....but I'll need addy etc that you would want them to send to. You have my e-mail....lemme know.

Posted by: Deb Cresswell at March 16, 2010 1:19 PM

Okay, heres the deal and it's not personal, well if you're an American it's personal but not directly to you... I work in law and the banking industry all freaking, bloody day. All major companies are cutting back limits regardless of your credit, They are also making pay off demands on HELOCs and E-LOCKs. They want bailouts yet they outsource a lot of their work to East India. They are not offering many mortgage loans and very few credit cards. However, you will be able to get a CC due to your FICO. But, and I'm sure you do, read the fine print. As well, most major banks are seizing funds on accounts with a "one" time overdraft now. Once they feel all of your debts are cleared they will release the funds and cancel your account. You will then be placed in "Chex Systems". It's pretty harsh the way they are treating customers when it's our tax dollars bailing them out and our mandatory fees, interest rates, etc. keeping them in business...

Posted by: Iva at March 16, 2010 1:31 PM

as an avid credit scam fighter with a fico of 790, i hear you loud & clear bonnie! i too have done the multiple calls to get charges that were promised to be reversed actually done, and just got a credit line decrease myself, though i haven't bothered to request an increase.

i have 2 pieces of advice here. one, i would call around to the major credit card companies and tell them you're shopping around for a card to transfer X dollars to provided they'll do it without any transfer fees and guarantee your apr. if you get someone willing to work with you, it may be worth transferring. i agree with the recc for discover, while they're not accepted everywhere, if you're just paying a balance, they have been doing a lot to get more market share. they're the only business cc still offering 5% cash back, but i'm a little scared i won't be able to use it everywhere, so i've held off getting one.

two, once you have an exit plan, talk to your original company and tell them it's their last chance to work with you. either reinstate your credit line [or whatever other demands you have] or you're giving someone else the benefit of your interest on this loan. i once had emptied out a chase card & left it for 6 months, then called to close it, and their customer service offered to fix my apr at 8.9% and allow me to transfer balances with no fee. at the time, i really needed that, and to this day i've remembered it. sometimes when you set it up so you have the upper hand and give them an ultimatum, it works!

Posted by: heather parlato at March 16, 2010 1:57 PM

I feel your pain too. My credit score was 790 last time I checked, and one of my credit cards went from the 9.9% balance I've had for about ten years to 15.9. I called to get it reduced and they said no. While I was shopping around then waiting for my new card to arrive, my old card went to 29.9% Variable. To a perfect customer for over ten years who has always paid off the balance every month on time. Ridiculous. I know it's across the board, but still, I won't abide it. Our new card is a Capital One MC with cash back. It worked best for us. I know there are sites with comparisons of cards but I can't find them right now. A Google search for "compare credit cards" might work. Good luck!!! And congrats on buying a house!

Posted by: Courtney at March 18, 2010 7:14 AM

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