Credit Card Rage: Debtors Revolt

  • ¡Viva la revolución!

    Credit card holders across America are heated over recent interest rate hikes, especially after the U.S. taxpayer has bailed the big guys out. Some are solemnly taking the APR abuse in stride, but others—like Ann Minch—are mad as hell and not going to take it anymore. She took to YouTube with a simple video on Sept. 8, kicking off what she described as the “Debtors Revolt.” Photo Credit: YouTube.com/Rockerchic4God
    Ann Minch’s online call to arms
  • Ann Minch’s online call to arms

    In her video, Minch said she would no longer pay her credit card bills until the credit card issuers end what she described as “outright financial rape.” She regards her recent rate hikes as “usury and plunder perpetrated by the financial elite” and notes in the video that she has been a Bank of America (Stock Quote: BAC) customer for 14 years with two credit cards. She wasn’t over the limit or behind on her payments and has good credit despite being recently laid off. Minch says the bank “jacked up my interest rate on the credit card to a whopping 30% … I could get a better rate from a loan shark.” “They weren’t willing to negotiate anything … basically Bank of America’s message to me was tough s**t.” She characterized the bank’s management as “evil, thieving bastards.” Fightin’ words, to be sure. So did anyone listen? Photo Credit: YouTube.com/Rockerchic4God
    Success for one, still struggle for many
  • Success for one, still struggle for many

    Consumerism Commentary reported that “Bank of America responded to her revolt, and because she was armed with knowledge and the right attitude, they finally agreed to set her interest rate back to its previous 12.99%.” So Minch goes home happy, but what about the millions of other Americans affected by recent rate increases? We asked Bank of America for comment on Ann Minch’s situation. Spokeswoman Betty Riess told us they “can’t discuss a customer’s account for reasons of privacy, but can tell you that we did reach out to the customer and, based on additional information we received, we reached a mutually agreeable resolution.  Our objective is to work with our customers if they have questions about their accounts, and the best approach is for them to contact us directly.” Photo Credit: egarc2
    A former Bank of America employee defects
  • A former Bank of America employee defects

    Once the public saw how much of an impact a simple YouTube video can have on the national financial discourse, others followed in Minch’s footsteps. Ben Frasier, 27, a former assistant branch manager at Bank of America reportedly got the bank’s attention with his own YouTube video. “What I’m telling the world is that Bank of America will stop at nothing to turn an insane profit,” he says into the camera. He takes issue with pressure the bank put on him to sell customers on “predatory” credit card offers. He also used the video to express his outrage over a $30,000 personal line of credit from the bank, which had mysteriously risen to a 32% APR from the 5.1% APR he thought he had. Photo Credit: YouTube.com/efrasier21mbf
    Another success…
  • Another success…

    The bank eventually reached out to Frasier, as he discusses in a video post on YouTube, and offered to “reconfigure” his personal line of credit at a more reasonable 8.99% APR—which he accepted. So what’s the message here? Publicly shame Bank of America and they will give you what you want? It is likely that the bank will continue to address these concerns as long as they are a relatively small number—but no doubt if everyone posted a video like Frasier’s or Minch’s, most customers would still get lost in the noise. Photo Credit: Getty Images
    Not all videos lead to success
  • Not all videos lead to success

    The Huffington Post reports: “Darren Bryant of Pensacola, Fla., spent hours in what he calls Bank of America's ‘phone maze,’ getting bounced from person to person, never reaching somebody who could address his situation. Finally, in one last desperate attempt to get someone's attention, he uploaded a five-minute video to YouTube in which he explains his predicament and gives his phone number and email address.” The bank got back to him within four hours regarding his $750,000 loan, but was allegedly unwilling to budge on the interest rate. Photo Credit: Getty Images
    Lawmakers in Washington
  • Lawmakers in Washington

    Politicians in Washington see the rage tidal wave—and they don’t want to be perceived as ignoring it. Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) is reportedly introducing a “a bill to immediately freeze credit card interest rates on existing balances.” This action comes because Dodd perceives that “credit card companies have been jacking up rates in a last ditch effort to squeeze customers” before the new Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility and Disclosure (CARD) Act provisions take effect in February. Photo Credit: senchrisdodd
    Your options
  • Your options

    Posting a YouTube video is certainly one option: If it goes viral, it could be seen 400,000 times or more in a matter of hours. This will get your credit card company’s attention. Boost your odds of success by sending the link to media organizations (you can always send us a heads-up on our Facebook page) and by telling your friends to spread the word. But do your homework. Make sure everything you say in the video is factually accurate, and not mere speculation. Present documentation and proof of your situation: Scan in recent account statements, but be sure your personal information (address, account number, etc.) is blurred out for safety reasons. Also, remember that if you take a hard stand and stop paying your bills as Ann Minch did, your credit score could be substantially damaged by your missed payments and you could also incur costly penalties, making your situation even worse. As more people post videos, though, the impact of any one video will be lessened. And if you aren’t the combative type, there are a few other ways to get help. Photo Credit: walknboston
    Contact the Federal Reserve
  • Contact the Federal Reserve

    Although this may not result in resolution of your issue or lowering of your interest rate, you can file a consumer complaint with the Federal Reserve. The agency’s contact information is available here. Be as specific as possible when filing with them; provide exact interest rates, dates of changes and physical documentation or account screenshots if necessary. Photo Credit: cliff1066
    Try an executive at the company
  • Try an executive at the company

    If the customer service groundling cannot help you resolve the problem, try going up the corporate ladder—send a polite, formal e-mail to an executive at the bank. Bank e-mail addresses are not hard to find. Check out the bank’s press room or media section on their Web site—find the listed e-mail address of a press contact there (Firstname.Lastname@chase.com, for example) and then apply the same address formula to a bank executive’s name. You can easily find prominent executives on the bank’s “about us” or “corporate information” Web pages. Photo Credit: Getty Images
    What about lawsuits?
  • What about lawsuits?

    Can all of these outraged cardholders come together to form some sort of class action lawsuit in response to the recent rate hikes? We asked Michael D. Hausfeld, a prominent civil litigator and Chairman of Hausfeld LLP, about this. “The short answer is probably not,” he said. Hausfeld explained that in most cases, the major banks are acting with foresight and within their limits, despite the fact that some of them are increasing costs associated with credit card debt. Responsible banks, he said, are usually mindful of how far they can go in pushing credit card debt without violating the law. We know this isn’t comforting news for many out there, but it’s the reality: Banks aren’t generally fly-by-night operations. They have a lot of money and resources to devote to legal compliance. If you want more effective relief, Hausfeld suggests cardholders bring the issue to the attention of state and federal legislators. The good news? It seems like as long as your video states your situation accurately, without exaggeration, there isn’t much the banks can do to shut that channel of communication down. You can get the truth out, and someone—either in the media, in Washington or at the bank—will eventually have to listen. Photo Credit: wafonso
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