Are There No Limits to the Indecency of Bankers?

I can easily answer that title question.  The answer is no.  Now that banks regularly earn their profits from fees instead of from banking, they grow more and more bold.  Audacious is a better word.  Better yet: sleazy.

As consumers we must make wise choices to minimize getting cheated by unethical businesses.  Making those choices can be time consuming and most people are lazy when it comes to making comparisons.  Others are bewildered by the choices or don't now how to get needed information via the Internet.  Let's face it, many are financially illiterate and have no way to defend themselves.

The banks take advantage of all that.  I understand the need for a business to prosper, but in my opinion, ethics has to enter the picture at some point.  Even bankers should have a limit as to how low they are willing to go.  Apparently that limit has not yet been discovered.

A recent example:  When Congress overhauled credit card regulations, card issuers had time to make changes that allowed them to avoid being covered by those regulations.

So what happened to arouse my anger and sense of frustration?  After watching Timothy Geithner save the banking industry instead of saving the American economy, what finally has me so outraged that I feel the need to do whatever I can to hurt these disgusting banks?

Yesterday, I received a snail mail message from Citibank, issuer of my Shell Mastercard.

I chose this card because of its rebate policy.  I get 5% rebate on all Shell products (I was using their gasoline anyway), plus 1% on everything else.

I don't want to argue the merits of collecting airline miles vs. cash rebates.  Let's just say this card suited me.

Per that letter, here are the new rules.  I'm not saying that each change is demonic.  But some are so beyond fair play that one has to wonder why these people believe they can get away with this behavior.

1) The 1% rebate is reduced to 0.5%

2) Maximum rebate for a billing cycle is now $20 (vs. unlimited)

3) Rebates can only be redeemed in increments of $25.  That's more than I can earn in a single billing cycle.  This seems minor, but it makes it far more likely a user will have 'left over' rebate dollars that can never be redeemed – at some point in the future

4) If a credit card user make a late payment, not only do you suffer the outrageous late fee, the extraordinarily high interest charges, but now they add the indignity of forfeiting any current accrued rebates.  In other words, they are not really rebates.

A rebate is a refund.  The new rules guarantee that you cannot earn enough to claim that refund over a single billing cycle and the refund is held hostage, subject to forfeiture.  Thus, any claim that this card offers rebates is a lie.

I'm not defending those who carelessly make late payments.  They are already severely punished for being late.  But now the consequences are even worse. To me, that's just despicable.  Voiding accumulated 'rebates' is their
way of twisting the screw just a little tighter.


Thumb screw
Thumbscrews were applied to prisoners as a means
of obtaining confessions

What can be done?  I know the banks have power and I have none.  I know there was a movement for people to close all accounts at the largest banks and open accounts at trustworthy local banks.  I did not ply along because it was too much trouble.  Apathy is truly a big advantage for the evil-doers.

Nut now I'm going to diligently take steps as an individual.  These are minor steps and no single bank will notice.  I am hoping that these ideas (not original with me) will be adopted by thousands, then millions of others.  Laziness should not be an issue.  There's very little to do. If you like the idea, please link back to this post, or forward the suggestions to others.

I've been following the first suggestion for years.  But this latest outrage is just too much for me.  I will now do this every time I have the opportunity and encourage everyone to do the same.

  • Every time I receive a solicitation to open a new credit card, I send the return envelope (postage is pre-paid) back to the bank.  I also stuff it with paper to increase the postage charge.  Obviously I send nothing with my identity
  • I no longer use credit cards for small purchases.  I may sacrifice a couple of pennies in rebates, but the credit card company and the bank that issued the card lose their swipe, plus other, fees.  The owner of the business gets to keep the extra cash, and I know the business can use the money more than the banks
  • Although I'm green, I do not accept paperless statements from banks.  I force them to pay to print and send my statements by mail.  I assume (cannot be certain) that the extra business helps the USPS.

I'm looking for additional ideas that make it more expensive for the banks to operate. Please share.

I know this is trivial to many (most?) people.  But I'm angry at how the banks were saved from bankruptcy by the taxpayers – and in return, we are rewarded we higher fees and more onerous rules.

A question asked of Senator Joseph
McCarthy (R. WI) by Special Counsel for the Army, Joseph N. Welch, in
the Army-McCarthy hearings of the 1950's
is appropriate right now. Bankers:

"Have you no sense of decency sir, at long last?  Have you left no sense
of decency?"

703

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6 Responses to Are There No Limits to the Indecency of Bankers?

  1. John 05/30/2010 at 7:13 AM #

    The banks can do whatever they want because there is no such thing as a banking industry; what we have is a banking cartel. At least in America you still can start a bank if you meet certain requirements. In other parts of the world, banking license is almost never given to ‘outsiders’, since banking is literally making money out of thin air.
    There is no such things as ethics anymore. Banks made fine prints because they are very sure a lot of honest working people won’t read them for obvious reasons. The catch is ‘if it is legal, then it is ethical’. What a load of bull*!

  2. Mark Wolfinger 05/30/2010 at 7:43 AM #

    John,
    “..no such thing as ethics anymore…”
    John, say it ain’t so.

  3. Josh 06/02/2010 at 12:08 AM #

    Mark,
    1. Tape those return envelopes to bricks… screw paper!
    2. Do a search on consumerist.com for “credit card negotiation” and similar terms.. they have a wealth of resources on dealing with credit card companies.
    Josh

  4. Mark Wolfinger 06/02/2010 at 8:24 AM #

    Josh,
    1) I confess I had not thought of bricks!
    2) Will do.
    Thanks

  5. Donald W. 06/04/2010 at 3:52 AM #

    I CAN’T GET A CREDIT CARD BECAUSE OF PAYING CASH FOR EVERYTHING ALL MY LIFE, DESPITE HAVING TWO JOBS, ONE WHICH PAY VERY WELL, TRADING ACCOUNT, TREASURY ACCOUNT, AND BANK ACCOUNT. NO LATE BILL PAYMENTS ON ANYTHING AND OWE NO ONE NOTHING OTHER THEN MONTHLY PAYMNENTS ON PHONE BILL AND UTILITIES; BUT ONE OF MY NEIGHBORS ON WELFARE AND A MINIMUM WAGE JOB HAS TWO CREDIT CARDS. HMMMMMMMMM, WONDER WHAT THE PROBLEM IS?

  6. Mark Wolfinger 06/04/2010 at 8:03 AM #

    Donald,
    The problem is that you are not a good customer.
    They want people who incur late fees and carry a large balance.

Please share your thoughts.