Bonuses: Not all Banks are the Same

by Odysseas Papadimitriou on February 3, 2010

BonusesIt is frustrating that American banks, post bailout, are paying out record bonuses given that many of those banks would not be in business if they hadn’t received a handout at the tax payers’ expense.  In response, President Obama is now threatening to heavily tax these bonuses to send the banking industry the message that the American people will not stand for such behavior.  The depiction of these banks in the media and by the government, however, is far too simplified.  Not all banks are the same.  Some banks simply didn’t need the bailout and other banks received aid indirectly when the government bailed out their debtors.

For a company like AIG, the issue is quite clear.  They would have failed had we not bailed them out.  As a result, we now own most of their company.  AIG clearly shouldn’t give their executives a bonus.  Moreover, as shareholders, we have every right to demand that those executives don’t get a bonus.  On the other hand, some banks didn’t need a bailout.  Capital One, for instance, was forced to take the government’s money so as to help stabilize the economic disaster.  Their cooperation helped conceal the real problem areas (i.e. Citibank and Bank of America), thus preventing investors from cutting and running on companies that desperately required the bailout to stay afloat.  Those banks which didn’t need the bailout repaid that money almost immediately and they shouldn’t be penalized.  If anything, they should be rewarded for helping the American economy stay afloat and for having a sustainable business model when, all around them, other giants of their industry were toppling.

Anti-Scam Advice from the ConsumerMan

by Lynn B. Johnson on February 2, 2010

scamI had a fascinating conversation with Mr. Herb Weisbaum, AKA the MSNBC.com ConsumerMan, about the scams we should all be aware of. It was an eye-opening conversation, one that I hope will save you a lot of pain and anguish.

Surprisingly, your credit card account is not on the scammers’ most-wanted list. “Con artists are trying not to use credit cards [in their scams] because the charges can be reversed,” Weisbaum said.

Britain's Checks Go Paperless...America to Follow

by Brian Johnson on January 18, 2010

paper-checksThe board of the UK Payments Council, a body composed of England’s top banks, has voted to phase out paper checks by 2018.  With the rise of electronic bill pay, the old tried and true method of paying by check is becoming, not only obsolete, but also expensive.  According to a Reuter’s report, it costs nearly a British pound (roughly $2) to process a check.

We ought to see this as a sign of things to come for the U.S. as well.  Our banks and economy, similar to Britain’s, are moving towards greater streamlining through electronic payments.  People demand the speed and efficiency of electronic and on-line banking.  The paper check has already become obsolete for many purchases (on-line shopping, for instance), and retailers are increasingly refusing to accept personal checks as a means of payment.  Many retailers see checks as an unnecessary invitation to fraud.  Others see it as an unnecessary complication in payment processing relative to the debit card efficiency and speed.

The Mortgage Relief Plan is a Failure

by Brian Johnson on January 12, 2010

failureOur government suffers from a naivete with some of its plans to resuscitate the economy which consumers simply cannot afford.  To be more specific, the current administration needs to come to terms with the fact that business practices are dictated by laws and potential for profit.  Businesses cannot, and should not, be counted on to change their policies out of the goodness of their hearts.

Last March, the Obama administration put into place its Mortgage Relief Plan to help homeowners stay out of foreclosure by urging banks to institute loan modifications for borrowers.  Renegotiation of their loans would allow borrowers to make payments on a more affordable rate, allowing them, in theory, to keep homes that would otherwise go into foreclosure.  Since its launch last March, the plan has provided permanent loan modifications to only 4% of those who have attempted to sign up.  Lenders like Bank of America have helped only .06% of the people who’ve requested a modification.

The 'Shining Virtue' of 2009?

by Lynn B. Johnson on January 3, 2010

2009It’s almost to the point that I don’t want to read the Business section anymore. Are you with me? And cognizant as I am that “if it bleeds, it leads,” it’s time for a feel-good financial-services story. So I emailed Liz Pulliam Weston, nationally syndicated personal-finance writer and author of many books, to “get her thoughts on the best and worst financial products and services of 2009.”

Tell you what: the woman’s smart with a capital MART, but I was surprised by her answer.

Citibank's Gift for the Holidays

by Brian Johnson on December 21, 2009

giftCitibank is suspending foreclosures and evictions for the holiday season.  For 30 days, from December 18th through January 17th, Citibank is offering a reprieve to borrowers whose loans are owned by Citibank Corporation.  The company reports that it will help about 4,000 borrowers who are either scheduled to be evicted, or scheduled to receive notice of eviction during this period.

Citibank deserves to be commended for this act.  In the general state of the American economy as it stands right now, lending institutions are placed in a precarious position where they have to implement tough policies to keep their businesses afloat.  It seems that Americans are increasingly turning to lending institutions as a solution to this recession as well as a scapegoat for this nation’s economic troubles.  All too often we hear that either our economic crisis was the result of banks giving out bad loans (which it was), or that economic recovery depends on lenders lowering the minimum requirements for loan qualification (which it does not).

Did Washington Learn Anything About Bad Loans?

by Odysseas Papadimitriou on December 17, 2009

bad-loansOn December 14, 2009, President Obama met with CEOs of the largest banks to urge them to approve more loans, to lower interest rates, and to curb fees.  The meeting was obviously in response to Federal lawmakers’ feeling that, having bailed out the banks, the nation has a right to expect concessions from its financial institutions.  This feeling is fueled by the belief that America’s banks, having received federal funds, have since failed to adequately return to the business of loaning money.

To put this in perspective, we should remember that one of the large contributors to the current recession was the practice of giving out home loans to people whose incomes and credit histories did not justify those loans.  The assumption was, of course, that any loan was essentially a good investment since the value of the house was expected to appreciate astronomically.

More High-Yield Checking Options

by Lynn B. Johnson on December 14, 2009

High-Yield Checking AccountNow, here at Wallet Blog we’re no strangers to high-yield, interest-bearing checking accounts. Wrote about Focus Bank back in May and yes, their offer still stands. But how could I be content, knowing that I’ve only alerted you to one 4.51% checking account? Time to rectify that situation with a few other options.

For instance: Bank of the Sierra, based in my beloved California, also offers a 4.51% yield checking account. And you don’t have to be a millionaire to enjoy their top interest rate; you can open the account with only $50, and you’ll earn 4.51% APY on balances up to $25,000, so long as you meet the minimum qualifications for that statement cycle. (Qualifications include a minimum of 12 Sierra Check Card purchases per statement cycle, minimum of one direct deposit/automatic payment monthly, one Sierra BillPay payment per cycle, eStatements, and you must open the account line.) And, if that’s not enough, there are no monthly fees, you can earn up to $25 in ATM refunds each statement cycle, and there is a beautiful picture of Sequoia redwoods on their Sierra Reward Checking Web page. Click here to learn more and to open an account. Please note that the account is available nationwide, but you must be a U.S. resident or a U.S. resident alien to apply.

Bank of America Tries but Fails to Defend New Annual Fees

by Odysseas Papadimitriou on November 10, 2009

no-repricingLast week, we posted a blog entry that called out Bank of America for its plans to begin testing the introduction of annual fees on active credit card accounts. Relative to the October 6th media frenzy that occurred after BofA wrote letters to both Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT) and Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA), pledging that it would stop re-pricing its existing credit card customer base, these new annual fees are unethical and contradictory to the promise the bank made to both lawmakers and to its customers. Additionally, it is our belief that if Bank of America moves forward with its plans to raise membership fees on existing customers into 2010, it will be breaking the laws mandated under the CARD Act, which is slated to take effect in February of next year.

We knew our blog post might spark some controversy, and that it would likely circulate quite a bit. Nonetheless, we were still surprised when we were contacted by Bank of America’s corporate communications department. The spokesperson who contacted us insisted by phone that Bank of America’s letter to Sen. Dodd and Rep. Frank referred to interest rates and interest rates only, and that it made no mention of annual fees. We found the letter. Here’s what it said:

Bank of America Readies Itself to Break the Law

by Odysseas Papadimitriou on November 3, 2009

illegalIt seems that Bank of America has already reneged on the October 6th promise it made to stop raising the interest rates on the credit cards of its existing customer base.  Just a week after making this pledge, BofA announced that it would begin introducing annual membership fees, ranging from $29 to $99, to select customers next year.  Combined, these two announcements result in a net win of zero for consumers, and in an unethical bait and switch play on the part of Bank of America.  Why?  Because, according to regulation, interest rates and annual membership fees fall under the same umbrella.  They are both considered finance charges.

While BofA postured as if was taking a step towards consumer protection in making the announcement that it would stop raising rates, the introduction of new annual fees to existing credit card accounts will still result in increased finance charges for account holders, even if those finance charges are referred to and assessed by another name.  For insight, consider that the addition of an annual fee of $50, on a credit card account with $500 balance and a ten percent interest rate, would double the overall yearly finance charges associated with that card.

Taxpayers paid once for subprime mortgages and soon they will pay again

by Odysseas Papadimitriou on October 28, 2009

Finance AnyoneThe Federal Housing Administration will be the next financial disaster to fall on the shoulders of American taxpayers.  Created in 1934 to help low income and first time buyers get housing loans, the agency was designed to guarantee a relatively small percentage of mortgages, for instance, two percent in 2005.  Since its inception, FHA’s budget and operational infrastructure have followed this low-ratio model, and have been designed to absorb losses without having to ask for money or help from the Federal Government.  However, the GAO is now projecting taxpayer funded subsidies for the FHA of half a billion dollars over the next three years, if no changes are made to the agency’s program.

With the housing and credit markets in dire straights, private lenders are asking for better credit scores and higher down payments.  This means fewer people are able to qualify for conventional loans.  According to the website for Housing and Urban Development (the parent organization for the FHA), the FHA’s restrictions on the kinds of loans it will guarantee are more lenient relative to conventional loans, and as such, the FHA is being called into service more and more frequently in this particular economic climate.  Up by over 1200 percent since 2005, the FHA is now expected to back one quarter of all new U.S. mortgages.

Is Wells Fargo's Credit Card Division Customer Friendly or Incompetent?

by Odysseas Papadimitriou on October 20, 2009

wells-fargo-credit-cardsCertain economic factors, like unemployment and credit card default rates are intertwined.  So it’s absolutely natural that in an economic climate where experts are predicting a ten plus percent unemployment rate before the end of the year, credit card companies will have to change the way they do business in order to remain safe and profitable.  As we all know, most issuers have been doing this by raising interest rates on both new and existing customers.

Wells Fargo has recently joined its peers in announcing that it too will raise the rates on the credit cards it offers.  According to Kevin Rhein, group head of card services at Wells Fargo, “this is something we’ve been contemplating for quite a period of time… We had just reached the point that we don’t think we can offer credit cards at the current pricing and keep credit flowing.”  Rhein’s announcement is interesting because it seems to suggest that Wells Fargo waited as long as it could before instituting these new rates.  He states that the impetus for this change was the bank’s recognition that the flow of credit was actually in danger, which is another way of saying that the profitability of Wells Fargo’s credit card department was at risk.  This, and the fact that the rate hikes are not scheduled to go into effect until November 30, one day before Congress’ new suggested enactment date for the CARD Act, suggests that Wells Fargo really has waited until the last minute before raising rates.

Is Bank of America Helping Its Customers or Just Done Raising Their Rates?

by Odysseas Papadimitriou on October 17, 2009

bank-of-americaRecently, Bank of America announced that it would stop raising interest rates on the credit cards of its existing customer base.  This news comes ahead of the February 22nd deadline mandated in the Credit CARD Act, and is certainly a step in the right direction.  However, there is an issue that hasn’t been raised that would put this announcement into better perspective.  How much of Bank of America’s existing credit card portfolio does this news really affect?

Even after the bank has already re-priced millions of credit card customers into higher interest rates, the national media seems to be treating BofA’s announcement as a sign that the North Carolina-based bank is falling in line with the spirit of consumer rights—that it has ended the practice of raising rates in the midst of this credit crunch.  Unfortunately, it is not at all clear what this announcement actually implies given that the media has toed the company line, and has not asked the necessary questions to put this announcement into perspective.

Who Regulates Your Wallet?

by Odysseas Papadimitriou on October 16, 2009

ConfusionFair business practices and consumer rights in the credit card industry are being regulated by six different entities depending on the classification of the card issuer.  This fragmented system exists despite the fact that the rules regarding business practices and consumer rights laws are the same for all credit card issuers.

Imagine you discover a burglar in your house and call the police.  They arrive to make an arrest, but when they show up, they do nothing.  They tell you you’ve called the wrong police.  The police officers that arrived at your home only deal with criminals whose last name start with Q through S and this guy’s last name starts with a B.  Moreover, the officers who are in your home tell you they won’t call the officers who deal with bad guys with last names beginning in B because they’re in competition with each other.  Too bad too, because the guys who showed up are really good at prosecuting burglars but the guys you should have called are a little behind the times in that capacity.  And of course, because of the competition, the two different police departments don’t share information.

Regulatory Redundancy Hurts Consumers

by Odysseas Papadimitriou on October 8, 2009

RedundancyAs we all know, the competitiveness of U.S. companies is measured by their ability to innovate and also by their operating costs.  Operating costs can come in the forms of labor and overhead, but they are also the result of less tangible forces like those produced by a nation’s laws, regulatory bureaucracies and taxes.  As a nation, we need to recognize that we are unlikely to meet competitive equality with China or India as far as labor costs are concerned.  Instead, we should focus our attention on reducing the other elements that contribute to the cost of doing business in the United States.  A large part of that can be traced to complying with the various regulatory bodies.

The insurance industry, which is regulated at the state level rather than the federal level, provides a prime example of how over-regulation can significantly increase the operating costs of a business.  If insurance were regulated at the federal level, the number of regulatory bodies would be reduced from 50 to 1.  This would allow insurance providers to both lower their cost structure and more easily compete on a national level.  Moreover, a single regulatory body for the U.S. insurance industry would monitor the industry more efficiently than would 50 such bodies working independently of one another.  The reduced bureaucracy, the increased efficiency in regulation and the resultant increase in market competition would pass savings on to American consumers.

Consumer Protection & Prudential Protection Go Hand in Hand

by Odysseas Papadimitriou on October 1, 2009

hand-in-handIn response to my recent blog post, “Modified Plans for the Consumer Agency Still Doomed to Fail,” I received an email from Reuters blogger Felix Salmon that questioned the idea that consumer protection and prudential protection can coexist.  In layman’s terms, Felix’s challenge was that what’s bad for the card issuer is inherently good for the consumer and vice versa.  Given that this is a question that many people likely have, my response to Felix follows:

It’s important to remember that one of the best ways to protect consumers is to prevent them from securing loans that they clearly cannot afford (i.e. “toxic loans).  As you very well know, when someone gets a loan that is significantly higher than what they can afford, they get into all kinds of trouble, including being forced into bankruptcy and/or foreclosure.  As it stands now, prudential protection and consumer protection are combined, and there are various regulatory agencies that have the knowledge, experience and authority to prevent toxic products to the market. Unfortunately they’ve been asleep at the wheel. Under the CFPA prudential protection and consumer protection will be split.  This means that the very agency responsible for protecting consumers won’t have the required data or experience, not to mention the authority, to protect consumers against toxic products. 

Modified Plans for the Consumer Agency Still Doomed to Fail

by Odysseas Papadimitriou on September 30, 2009

Consumer Financial Protection AgencyLast week, Representative Barney Frank, Chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, made a push to scale back the proposal for the Consumer Financial Protection Agency (CFPA), part of a financial regulatory reform bill, which is expected to be voted on by the end of the year.  Some of the paring down of the CPFA includes the elimination of the requirement for financial firms to offer plain “vanilla” products and services, such as mortgages with simple terms and credit cards with easy to understand contracts.  Additionally, in the memo that was circulated by Rep. Frank, outlining the modifications he envisions with respect to the CFPA, it was noted that, “ the CFPA will not have authority to approve or change business plans” for financial institutions.  As one would imagine, plans for the CFPA have been amended in order to assuage industry concerns about its restrictiveness and to appease legislators whose support is needed if the full bill is to pass through Congress. 

This is par for the course in Washington, and we’ve all seen how much the healthcare bill has shifted over the past few months.  However, the CFPA has been doomed from the start because it is disjointed at its core, and no amount of amendments or adjustments will fix the problems that are inherent to this new regulatory agency.  The CFPA won’t work because its basis is the idea that consumer protection can be separated from the oversight of the soundness of the financial institutions themselves.  Thus, while Congress and the Obama administration have been spot on in their diagnosis of the problems that plague America’s financial regulatory system, embracing the CFPA as a solution will not help the industry nor will it protect consumers.

How Congress Crippled the FDIC

by Brian Johnson on September 30, 2009

FDICRecent waves of bank failures, and the expected continuance of those failures, has put the FDIC in an uncomfortable position.  Covering the accounts held by the failing banks is depleting the FDIC’s coffers, leaving them with only two options on how to get that money back.  Unfortunately, neither option is particularly attractive. 

On one hand, the FDIC could borrow the money from the Treasury, but the size of the FDIC and its position as a bedrock American financial institution loads its actions with enormous relevance for the rest of the economy.  If the FDIC has to borrow money from the Treasury for the first time in twenty years, it creates serious doubts concerning the strength of our economy and our recovery.  If there is another large collapse, moreover, having already borrowed money from the Treasury, the FDIC will be in a more precarious position to guarantee the safety of America’s bank accounts.  On the other hand, if the FDIC decides to turn to the industry to build up its funds by charging banks more insurance fees, it will end up putting more ‘at risk’ banks into further danger of collapse, which would, in turn, force the FDIC to cover those accounts.

Shareholders Are Helpless in Controling Their Companies - Judge Agrees

by Brian Johnson on September 22, 2009

helplessRecently, a judge denied Bank of America’s attempt to settle with the SEC for $33 million dollars under accusations that the Bank presented false information to its shareholders about Merrill Lynch employee compensation packages.  The judge reasoned that the $33 million would end up being paid by shareholders, effectively forcing them to pay a bill twice which they should have never had to pay at all.  While we agree with the decision we clearly can not continue operating in a manner where shareholders are helpless in running their own companies.

Does it not seem odd that the owners of the company are not responsible for hiring corrupt or incompetent management or for allowing that corruption to continue?  Unfortunately, the reality with the current Board of Directors system is that shareholders cannot be responsible because they have very little power to decide who will sit on that board or to quickly remove board members when their attitudes or behaviors work against the shareholder interests.  If shareholders could have ousted Ken Lewis at any point in time, then they should have been responsible for any wrongdoings under his leadership. 

The Consumer Financial Protection Agency -- A Step in the Wrong Direction

by Odysseas Papadimitriou on September 16, 2009

Wrong WayAs Chair of the Congressional Oversight Panel, which has been charged with reviewing the current state of financial markets and the regulatory system, Harvard professor Elizabeth Warren has been quite vocal in her support of the administration’s proposal for a Consumer Financial Protection Agency (CFPA).  The CFPA would be the regulatory body that ensures that financial institutions provide clear and simple disclosures, which would ostensibly deter consumers from opting for risky and “exotic” financial products, and would be the eighth agency involved in consumer credit regulation.  While I agree that there has been little effectiveness in the regulatory system as far as consumer financial protection is concerned, this is no reason to create yet another agency.  The CFPA, which was actually conceived by professor Warren several years ago, would separate the regulation that provides consumer financial protection from the regulation that ensures the banks that serve these consumers are solvent, and do not introduce toxic products to the market.  If our hope is for a solid financial system, then it must be understood that these two areas of regulation go hand-in-hand.  Warren is right, “the credit market is broken,” but she herself proves that the CFPA won’t fix it. 

Warren lays out her arguments for the CFPA in two articles that appeared recently in Business Week and in The Baseline Scenario.  While she is spot on in her analysis of the nature of the problems that plague our financial system, her solutions do not address the problems that she identifies.  It’s true, traditional financial products cannot compete with “exotic” products whose terms seem attractive up front, but hide surprises and changes that are revealed only after the consumer has committed.  Further, the more complex these “exotic” financial products become, the less able consumers are to make comparisons.  Right now our financial system lacks a level-playing field, transparent in its operation, which encourages competition, and also engenders product innovation. 

The Bulls Are Wrong About Our Economic Recovery

by Odysseas Papadimitriou on September 10, 2009

RecessionThe bulls are pointing to the end of a recession and a robust recovery ahead for the American economy.  Their optimism is based on a definition of the recession, in economic terms.  For economists, a recession ends when the economy ends its negative growth.   These terms, however, are theoretical.  In practice, a robust recovery must parallel a robust recovery at the American household level, which is unlikely to happen for a number of reasons: 

  • The Unemployment rate:  We hear a good deal of optimism coming from economists concerning the fact that the unemployment rate is slowing, but we ought to remember that it isn’t actually going down, but continues to rise.  According to the Associated Press, we are at the worst unemployment crisis since 1983 and economists are predicting the unemployment rate to peak above 10% by the middle of next year. 
  • State Deficits:  We are suffering huge deficits at the state level which the Federal Stimulus package can not correct.  This means additional job losses for state employees.
  • Unemployment Insurance:  Not only is America facing a dangerously high unemployment rate, but the unemployment level in this country has been high for so long that benefits are now running out.  We are in a situation far worse than simply having people who are out of work; they are out of work, have few prospects for new jobs, and are receiving no income.
  • Continuing Bank Failures:  Despite the federal government’s intervention, we continue to see banks fail.  The number of banks on the FDIC’s “Problem List” (banks in danger of failing) has gone from 305 to 416 at the end of June ’09.  Some analysts are afraid that the FDIC will go into the red by the end of this year.
  • Continuing Credit Crunch:  In these uncertain times, credit markets continue to be very tight.  Because of the continuing failure of the nation’s banks, regulators and bank executive remain cautious, which means less credit availability.  Companies who need to deal with debts that are coming to maturity are likely to find less opportunity to refinance.  As a result, we can expect more corporate bankruptcies and more job losses.   
     

Many economists are calling for more stimulus money by the federal government, but it is clear that what the country really needs is smarter spending.  We desperately need to make investments with government funds that will deliver strong returns on the nation’s money, and thus, we believe that the federal government ought to invest in new technologies that will turn America’s trade deficits into strong surpluses. It is precisely for that reason that this is the right time for a ‘Manhattan Project’ on energy independence.

‘Debit or Credit’ When it Comes to Fraud?

by Odysseas Papadimitriou on August 6, 2009

Debit or CreditLast year, for the first time, spending on VISA debit cards surpassed spending on VISA credit cards – not just by the total number of transactions, but also by the total number of dollars spent.   With the ubiquity of debit card use and given that there are certain misconceptions about fraud coverage on both debit and credit cards , we, at Wallet Blog, thought consumers should be offered a comparison centered around the level of protection and convenience both types of accounts provide to consumers who have been exposed to fraud.

According to the FTC, consumer liability for fraudulent debit and credit card charges is limited to $50.  VISA and MasterCard, who control 100 percent of the U.S. debit card market, as well as most of the major credit card networks, have gone beyond what the law requires, and mandated that all of their card issuers adhere to a zero percent liability rate for their customers, and that they grant immediate refunds on disputed charges.

Buy Treasury Inflation-Protected Securities (TIPS)

by Brian Johnson on August 4, 2009

wb_chartGiven the recent economic upheavals, as well as the unprecedented manner by which the government is handling these dilemmas, a lot of people are worried about what inflation will do to our savings and investments.  One option that investors have to safeguard against inflation is to put money into Treasure Inflation-Protected Securities or TIPS.

Basically, the principal investment for TIPS is adjusted by the Consumer Price Index (measures inflation) + A Fixed Yield that is unique for each TIPS (recently it has been around 2%).  This means that your investment primarily rises or falls along with inflation.   To use a simplified example, if you put in $100 in a TIPS that has a 2% ‘Fixed Yield’ and the nation goes through 5% of inflation in a year, then the value of the TIPS will raise from $100 to $105 over that year (as a result of the 5% inflation)+ 2% of $105 to a total value of  $107.1. 

Lenders Need to Become Proactive Instead of Reactive

by Odysseas Papadimitriou on July 21, 2009

home-foreclosureAccording to realtytrac.com, 300,000 homes went into foreclosure last month.  Bloomberg reports that the U.S. delinquency rate rose to 9.4% and foreclosures rose to 1.37%.  According to Moody’s Investor Service, 42 percent of outstanding 2006-vintage subprime loans are at least 60 days delinquent, in foreclosure, or held for sale.  As we all know, the housing crisis and rising unemployment rates have served to make it difficult for many Americans to pay their mortgages on time, and the result is that many of the nation’s home owners are in dire straights.  The problem is bad, and banks need to change the way they modify mortgages if they hope to provide adequate assistance.  They are now concentrating on fixing disasters as they arise rather than preventing them in the first place.

With so many people in financial trouble, mortgage lenders like Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Wachovia, Chase, and Citigroup are finding themselves too understaffed to deal with these excessive defaults.  Given that a bank only has so many resources to extend to their borrowers, the dilemma becomes who to work with first.  Basically, the bank has to perform a kind of triage, like in a hospital, to determine which of their clients demands immediate attention, and which clients can wait.  The lender faces different kinds of repayment problems.  Specifically, they have people who cannot repay and who are defaulting right now, and people who have done everything in their power to repay (tapped into savings, changed their lifestyle, etc.) but who cannot sustain their payments any longer; they have not defaulted yet but soon they will.  According to a survey by ProPublica, it seems that most major lenders have been focusing on borrowers who are most delinquent at the expense of borrowers that are current but will quickly become delinquent unless they get help.

Secured Credit Cards Will Become The New Student Credit Cards

by Odysseas Papadimitriou on July 10, 2009

secured-credit-cardsBecause of the Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility, and Disclosure (CARD) Act of 2009, the process of getting a credit card is going to drastically change for people under 21 years of age.  Starting on February of 2010, people under 21 will not be allowed to get a credit card without a co-signer or proof that they can repay their credit card debt.  At Wallet Blog we have already made it clear that this part of the credit card law is completely unfair and ridiculous as it singles out people under 21 years of age for special treatment, even though they are legally adults.  

No matter what politicians decide, credit history is going to continue being a critical factor in determining loan amounts and loan interest rates (as it should be).  However, since it is now harder for people under 21 to get credit cards, they will have less time to build up their credit history and will be at a disadvantage for anything that requires a credit check (like getting a loan or even renting an apartment).

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