Flyingifr

Lenders - beware the coming storm

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With the current recession and credit crisis, the news media is beginning to note a cosmic shift in people's attitudes towards credit. No longer are credit cards being looked at as a universal necessity - they are once again being looked at as a luxury.

I am also seeing a shift in attitudes on both sides of the equasion. Loyalty is history. Lenders, who used to value long term relationships with their customers are now looking at their customers as cash cows and when the cow doesn't give enough milk it is sent to the slaughterhouse to be turned into hamburger through rate jacking, credit line decreases or simple unannounced account closures.

I remember the days when bankers encouraged you to have a long term relationship with them. My Debit Card attached to my bank account still reads "customer since 1996", but my credit cards no longer do. American Express still does that, but after a rate jacking and 4 credit line decreases in six months on an account that was never delinquent by one dollar or one day that account was closed within 14 months of its opening. Amex made no attempt to keep me as a customer and actually paid thousands of their customers to go away. The other credit card companies are in the same boat. Citibank made no attempt to salvage our relationship, neither did GEMB.

It is easy to ascribe this to the current credit crisis, and that is probably a correct assumption, but what is happening to the concept of "loyalty"? Loyalty is a component of trust, and the credit industry is built on trust. Lenders trust borrowers to repay and borrowers trust lenders to be honest with them and to honor their commitment to lend. Stories are legion of people at checkout counters across the land attempting to use a credit card that they thought had plenty of available credit only to find there is none after a quick and unannounced decrease in credit line. I am not talking about accounts that are delinquent in payment - I am talking about accounts that are current, have always been current and in many cases actually have no balance owed at all.

Lenders say "it's a business decision" and they are correct. But that goes both ways, and this is where I am sure the collectors will argue with me. How many of us have heard collectors cajole us towards repayment based not on the "business decision to repay" but on the "moral" argument - you have a moral commitment to repay. It's as if one side of the transaction is an amoral "business decision" when made by a lender and the other is a "moral imperative" when made by a consumer. "Yes, we raised your interest rate to 30% and cut your credit limit to $5 above your balance with no advance notice, tripled your payment, changed your due date and there is nothing you can do about it even though you have been a customer of ours for thirty years and have never made a late payment, but your payment is now five minutes late. Here's your late charge and we dinged your credit."

OK, so it may not actually be THAT draconian, but many people feel it's pretty close to that, and many are angry. How angry? I see a storm coming that the lenders are powerless to stop and may end up hurting them big-time.

If credit is reduced to simply an amoral "business decision" what happens when BOTH sides of the transaction see it that way? The moral imperative to be honest goes out the window and only what is expedient and can be "gotten away with" will happen. Let's discuss someone I know and we will call her Jenny. I personally know about dozen people who fit Jenny's profile and the number is growing daily.

Jenny is in her late 50's. She has a six-figure credit limit spread among a half a dozen credit cards. Her utilization is about 20% and makes her payments consistently above the minimum and on time. Her FICO's are all in the mid 700's. She has a six-figure household income, owns her home and has three paid for cars. Her children are all grown and she is preparing for her retirement. She has two pensions fully vested and a solid investment portfolio.

She has also had $75,000 in credit lines reduced in the past year and has had four credit cards closed unannounced. She feels she plays by one set of rules and the lenders play by another. She is right - she plays by the "moral imperative" set of rules and the the lenders are playing by the "business decision" set.

That is about to end.

Her plan: To retire at age 62 - as soon as she can collect her pensions and Social Security and move to the Philippines. She will sell her paid for home to her child before doing anything. By that time her investment portfolio will be in the low six-figure range, and her combined pensions and Social Security will allow her to live like royalty in the Philippines. Did I mention that she plans to hit all her credit cards up to the maximum before she leaves, and not pay them back? She won't need them in the Philippines, she will have enough cash for whatever her heart desires. She doesn't care what happens to her credit rating in the US, she will be in the Philippines. Or Brazil. Or Singapore. Or Korea. Or Mexico, Belize, Costa Rica or anywhere else in the world, even Nova Scotia. "It's not personal, it's business."

Collectors will skip trace her, maybe they will find her, maybe they won't. If they do, what can they do? Her pensions and Social Security will be Direct Deposited to a bank in the Philippines. Her assets will be in Treasury Bills. The Treasury will mail her a check every six months for the interest. None of which can be touched by bill collectors. Is she alone in making these plans? No, I know of a dozen like her and several who have already done this. The numbers will grow and with each one the lenders will get hit hard. In Jenny's case for $100,000. The new morality is "it's just business."

Lenders - you created this environment. I hope you enjoy it.

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Look, I agree with the gist of your article but I do not agree with Jenny's plans. If she is indeed that rich, then the best thing she can do to hit the lenders is to payoff and cut up her credit cards. If all Americans did that, they would end up bankrupt because they would have no income.

I agree with banks/lenders having lost their morals (between how the credit card business is ran, payday lending, and all the other abuses), however I want to be able to look at myself in the mirror every morning. If I followed Jenny's plan, I would not be able to do that. So what I have done instead is selected a date and decided that after that date, I would not borrow any money for any reason no matter what. If is just as effective (the lenders cannot make money off of me if they cannot loan it to me) and at the end of the day, I can say that I have stuck to my morals, even if others have not.

If the lender wants to be amoral, that is their business. I will not give up my morals just to get them back. There is a better way.

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Ah, but remember what Ovid said. When dealing with persons of low morality, it is ethically permissible to deal with them at their own level.

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dozen people who fit Jenny's profile and the number is growing daily.

Jenny is in her late 50's. She has a six-figure credit limit spread among a half a dozen credit cards. Her utilization is about 20% and makes her payments consistently above the minimum and on time. Her FICO's are all in the mid 700's. She has a six-figure household income, owns her home and has three paid for cars. Her children are all grown and she is preparing for her retirement. She has two pensions fully vested and a solid investment portfolio.

She has also had $75,000 in credit lines reduced in the past year and has had four credit cards closed unannounced. She feels she plays by one set of rules and the lenders play by another. She is right - she plays by the "moral imperative" set of rules and the the lenders are playing by the "business decision" set.

That is about to end.

Her plan: To retire at age 62 - as soon as she can collect her pensions and Social Security and move to the Philippines. She will sell her paid for home to her child before doing anything. By that time her investment portfolio will be in the low six-figure range, and her combined pensions and Social Security will allow her to live like royalty in the Philippines. Did I mention that she plans to hit all her credit cards up to the maximum before she leaves, and not pay them back? She won't need them in the Philippines, she will have enough cash for whatever her heart desires. She doesn't care what happens to her credit rating in the US, she will be in the Philippines. Or Brazil. Or Singapore. Or Korea. Or Mexico, Belize, Costa Rica or anywhere else in the world, even Nova Scotia. "It's not personal, it's business."

Collectors will skip trace her, maybe they will find her, maybe they won't. If they do, what can they do? Her pensions and Social Security will be Direct Deposited to a bank in the Philippines. Her assets will be in Treasury Bills. The Treasury will mail her a check every six months for the interest. None of which can be touched by bill collectors. Is she alone in making these plans? No, I know of a dozen like her and several who have already done this. The numbers will grow and with each one the lenders will get hit hard. In Jenny's case for $100,000. The new morality is "it's just business."

Lenders - you created this environment. I hope you enjoy it.

Thank you for your post - I like Jennys Story, I'm about 14yrs behind her. Something to keep in mind for the furture....:):):)

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I do not think enough of America fits into Jennys category. I think the majority of people who have money to pay their bills are going to pay their bills. It's the people like me who can barely make the minimum payments, ask for loans from family and friends to help pay living expenses each month who are getting the interest rates jacked up, accounts closed, and limits decreased. I doubt I (or people in the same position as me) will be able to carry out that plan.

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The shift Flying is refering to is happening all around the country.......it will not bode well for the banks and the CC companies, 7-8 years from now , the banks will be begging for consumers to get back into the game.....I do not ever see the CC debt that now exist to occur again.

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It's called GREED to all the CEO's of the credit card co. They can not afford to another gold toilet for their multi million dollar home.

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The shift Flying is refering to is happening all around the country.......it will not bode well for the banks and the CC companies, 7-8 years from now , the banks will be begging for consumers to get back into the game.....I do not ever see the CC debt that now exist to occur again.

Eh...I don't think that's true. Americans have short memories. Sure, some of us will never forgive nor forget. But many people will decide that they've learned their lesson and will do buisness with Mega Devil Bank again, think this time they've got the tiger by the tail. For a while they'll pay in full, but then things will happen in their life or they'll get lazy again, or get another case of I-want-it-now-itis and then we, as a country, will be back where we began. At least next time we'll have a few more protections in place, the new credit card bill that goes into effect next year will at least stop some of the worst Mega Devil Bank practices.

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True, some will not learn and continue to play the game.....but I have noticed a big shift in college age kids and recent grads who are scare'd Sh$tless about their debt because they cant get a job to pay it back, and they also have taken off the rose colored glasses and are seeing things in a different light. With double digit unemployment coupled with the fact that we dont make much here in the form of goods, not to factor the country as a whole is broke, they are very aware that the outlook is bleak for the next several years..........this will have an effect on mindset's for decades.

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