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Banks and Consumers Step Up to Help Out in Hurricane Sandy's Wake
The destruction caused by superstorm Sandy is inspiring businesses and individuals alike to offer financial relief to the 60 million people expected to be directly affected.
By all accounts, the financial toll will be enormous – the Associated Press reports $20 billion just for the physical damage and another $30 billion in lost business.
Feeling the pinch on a smaller scale are consumers unable to log on to their online accounts or get to a bank to make a deposit — and who are therefore in danger of getting hit with overdraft or insufficient funds fees.
In response, many major banks are offering their customers on the East Coast a break:
- JP Morgan Chase is waiving insufficient funds fees, extended overdraft fees and late fees for loans and credit cards until Nov. 1 for customers in affected areas, according to the Huffington Post. Customers have until the end of the business day Nov. 1 to make deposits to avoid these fees.
- Wells Fargo is waiving late fees and out-of-network ATM fees through Nov. 1, and Barclays is waiving cash advance fees according to CNBC.
- Citibank is waiving out-of-network ATM fees in affected areas until an unspecified date, according to the Wall Street Journal.
- Bank of America customers in affected areas can call the bank to have fees incurred because of the storm waived, according to Time.
Consumers looking for ways to help are also stepping up, making donations online, over the phone, by mail and in person.
Unfortunately, scammers often step up their efforts as well after disasters.
While the urge to give now and give quickly may take over, take a moment to make sure your donation will be used the way you intended.
The Better Business Bureau advises doing a quick bit of research to decide which charity will put your donation to the best use. Check whether an organization you’re considering meets the 20 BBB standards for charity accountability.You can also check the Internal Revenue Service’s list of tax-exempt organizations.
The primary central location for donations is the Red Cross. You can access its system in several ways: Visit www.redcross.org, call 1-800-RED-CROSS or make a $10 donation by texting the word REDCROSS to 90999. People mailing checks can send them to the American Red Cross, P.O. Box 37243, Washington, D.C. 20013, or to their local Red Cross chapter.
Other legitimate organizations will be collecting funds as well, so here are some tips for vetting them:
- Watch out for organizations that have names just slightly different from the name of a legitimate charity.
- If you hear that “100 percent of the donation will be used to assist victims,” be suspicious. Charities have to use a percentage of donations to pay costs for staff and operations. Even a credit card donation involves a small processing fee.
- Pay by credit card, debit card or check rather than cash. These methods offer the best tracking and protection. If you do pay by check, make it out to an organization rather than to an individual.
- Don’t respond to an emailed link. That may lead you to a fake website that looks very much like the real thing. Look up the organization’s website, then look for the link to donate from there.
- Avoid charities that pressure you to use wire services such as Western Union or MoneyGram to transfer money. Legitimate charities won’t do that.
- Check the charity’s Web address ending. Most legit ones end in .org rather than .com.
If you do uncover a scam or suspect one, report it to the FBI and National Center for Disaster Fraud’s hotline at 866-720-5721.
Your Credit Card Could be Spying on You
Your credit card could soon be tattling on you to marketers.
At least that’s the conclusion being drawn by the Financial Times and Wired after analyzing an online presentation from MasterCard, offering up cardholder data to online marketers looking to zero in on holiday shoppers (the presentation has since been taken down).
MasterCard cardholders make tens of billions of transactions each year, according to Wired. Out of that storm of data, patterns start to emerge. Population sectors can be isolated and analyzed. And that can be particularly useful to marketers who want to target business travelers, for example — or, even better, holiday shoppers (broken down into categories like Black Friday shoppers and Cyber Monday shoppers).
Although no personally identifying data would be passed on to marketers, they’d be able to target you with online ads tailored to your shopping habits. That connection between your offline purchases and online life is what’s so mysterious (and so concerning). How, exactly, are these online marketers supposed to use what you’ve been buying at the mall and find you online?
If MasterCard’s potential program takes off, it will be another development in the complicated relationship consumers have with their personal data. On the one hand, we offer up our information on a silver platter to marketers via social media. And we embrace smartphone apps that know where we are and send us coupons for nearby stores. On the other, we get creeped out when our favorite stores seem to know us a little too well and protest when malls try to track our phones. Plus, there’s a vulnerability that comes from marketers having the inside scoop on our impulse buys.
How far is too far? Would MasterCard be crossing the line with this program?
With protecting your wallet in mind, here are some of the best personal finance blog posts of the week:
Money Crashers lists 10 things to never keep in your wallet.
Punch Debt in the Face celebrates achieving financial peace.
One Cent at a Time explains 15 ways you could get scammed on Craigslist.
Personal Dividends offers some tips for negotiating a lower rent.
NarrowBridge Finance explains why freebies don’t always add value to your life.
Your Finances Simplified provides three ways to feed your family when you have little time — and little money.
Wal-Mart and AmEx Hatch Low-Fee Bluebird Card
Wal-Mart and American Express teamed up to offer a head-turning payment option for customers fed up with traditional banks: the Bluebird card.
This week, the financial and retail giants introduced Bluebird, a prepaid debit card that promises no required minimum balance, no monthly maintenance fees, no annual fees, no activation fees and no overdraft fees. The only fees are $2 for ATM withdrawals, though the first one each calendar month will be free, and a $2 fee if you reload the card via a debit card. Read the full card agreement here.
For comparison, Americans pay an average $200 a year in various bank fees, says Wal-Mart Vice President Daniel Eckert, citing a February 2012 Bretton Woods survey.
“Bluebird is our solution to help consumers who currently may be poorly served by traditional banking products,” said Dan Schulman, group president of American Express, in a press release.
American Express may have found a wealth of such consumers in its partnership with Wal-Mart, which has said 85 percent of its daily transactions are done in cash.
Beyond Walmart stores, customers can use the card anywhere American Express is accepted.
How the card works
The Bluebird card works much like other reloadable prepaid cards on the market. Users can get it online for free at Bluebird.com (starting next week — the site isn’t up yet), or at Walmart stores for a $5 fee. However, the card available at Walmart is only a “starter” card — cardholders will still have to go online to set up their accounts and get a permanent card.
Upon set-up, the cardholder must designate a funding source (such as a bank account) from which a minimum of $25 will be withdrawn and loaded onto the card. After that initial load, more money can be added (up to a maximum of $5,000) via direct deposit, cash at Walmart, debit card or bank account. You can also load money via Green Dot’s MoneyPak or InComm’s Vanilla Reload Network Card, although you may incur fees from Green Dot and InComm.
Why consumers want alternatives
Here are some statistics that add to Bluebird’s appeal:
- Banks charged a total of $31.6 billion in 2011 in overdraft fees, according to Moebs Services.
- The average minimum balance necessary to avoid a maintenance fee on a checking account was $723, up 23 percent from last year, according to a September 2012 Bankrate study.
- One in four consumers already conducts some or all of financial business outside traditional banks, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC) says.
In addition to the fees it doesn’t have, the card has extra features more typically associated with credit cards. For instance, consumers will have access to American Express customer service and roadside assistance.
It also opens up mobile possibilities for the unbanked. That means a friend can send money directly to your Bluebird account to split a dinner bill via a person-to-person (P2P) mobile app. You can also take a picture of the check your uncle sent you for your birthday and deposit it straight into your account from your smartphone.
Despite its perks, the Bluebird card is a prepaid card and therefore lands in largely unregulated territory — although the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is working to change that by establishing rules for the prepaid industry.
In the meantime, consumer advocates caution that prepaid cards may not have the same federal protections that credit cards have. Bluebird, for instance, is not backed by the FDIC, though it is backed “100 percent” by American Express Travel-Related Services Co., Schulman said in a webcast announcing the card.
Bluebird will be available next week online at Bluebird.com and at 4,000 Walmart stores.
Credit Card Use Catching On in China
Credit card use in China has been slow to take off, but signs say that’s rapidly changing.
The Wall Street Journal recently reported that China had about 268 million credit cards circulating by September 2011, more than five times the number at the end of 2006.
Now, researchers at the University of Missouri (MU) have found that 30 percent of Chinese urban households own at least one credit card and that the card adoption rate grew 40 percent each year between 2004 and 2009.
For comparison, 68 percent of households in the U.S. had a credit card in 2010, according to June 2012 numbers from the Federal Reserve.
Reforms paved way for growth
Some drastic reforms have helped to reshape the Chinese economy. One of them was allowing foreign banks to offer credit cards to Chinese citizens. In August, Citigroup Inc. became the first U.S. bank to offer a credit card to the Chinese without co-branding with a local issuer.
But hurdles remain, including the tightly controlled payment system dominated by one company, China UnionPay Co. In July, the World Trade Organization ruled that the state-owned enterprise had a monopoly on the Chinese payment card market — and that Beijing had discriminated against U.S. payment card suppliers to preserve that monopoly. China has yet to announce how it plans to respond to that ruling.
There’s also some philosophical wrestling at play here: Credit cards and the concept of debt run counter to the teachings of Confucianism (which encourages thrift and frugality), said Rui Yao, an assistant professor of personal financial planning at MU, in a press release. That may help explain why new Chinese credit card holders tend to be younger — 58 percent are younger than 35, and only 3 percent are older than 50, says Yao, who studied data from the 2008 Survey of Chinese Consumer Finance and Investor Education.
Potential to overtake U.S. use
Though use of credit cards has been low, the potential is enormous, as China is home to 20 percent of the world’s population. MasterCard has predicted that China will overtake the U.S. as the world’s largest credit card market by number of cards by 2020. MasterCard estimates that the number of credit cards in China will rise to 1.1 billion in 2025 and that spending on those cards will reach $2.5 trillion.
Yao says that while that’s good news for economic empowerment (and consumers’ buying power), there’s also a dangerous lack of education that needs to be addressed. More than 90 percent of non-credit card users in China were unaware of the safety issues that come with credit card use, Yao said. More than 60 percent had limited awareness of the consequences of credit card default.
“This lack of knowledge could create problems as credit card ownership is expected to grow at a rate of 11 percent a year,” Yao said.
The solution? Yao suggests financial education about responsible credit usage that’s consistent with traditional Chinese values.
Starbucks Deal Puts Square App in the Spotlight
Starbucks and Square have signed a venti-sized deal that could make that frappuccino even easier to buy — and, possibly, make a major player out of the payment start-up.
You may have heard of Square — it’s the mobile payments company that makes those swipe dongles small merchants and Girl Scouts alike have been plugging into their smartphones to accept card payments. It also has an app called “Pay with Square,” which allows customers to use their phones — instead of cards — to pay. And it’s this app that should be fully functional in all 7,000 Starbucks locations this fall.
How Square’s app works
The Square app allows customers to store payment card info as they would with other digital wallets. That card will get charged each time the cardholder uses the app to pay.
Once Starbucks installs Square’s GPS technology, you will be able to open a tab simply by walking into the store. The store’s technology will recognize your phone, and your name and photo will pop up on cashiers’ screens. Once you’re ready to pay, you need only give your name to the cashier, who will then verify your identity based on the photo. After the transaction is completed, you’ll get a notification on your phone that lets you know your payment was successful, lets you view your receipt and lets you leave a tip if you so choose.
If you’re a fan of the mobile payment app that Starbucks already launched in 2011, you can continue to use it. But, unlikethe Starbucks app (which requires you to scan a barcode), the Square app lets you keep your phone in your pocket.
Advantages for Starbucks and Square
Square is getting a $25 million infusion of cash from Starbucks out of the deal. It will also become the processor of all Starbucks’ credit and debit transactions — meaning it will earn a percentage of each transaction.
Starbucks, meanwhile, gets a chance to further differentiate itself in the coffee shop world and latch firmly onto Square’s software — a technology that’s becoming the mobile payment method of choice for a rapidly widening sector. It will also add its president and CEO, Howard Schultz, to Square’s board.
“The evolving social and digital media platforms and highly innovative and relevant payment capabilities are causing seismic changes in consumer behavior and creating equally disruptive opportunities for business,” said Schultz in a press release.
Playing on a bigger field
Teaming up with a mega-chain gets Square some spotlight. Up until now, most of Square’s users have been small businesses, food trucks, and sellers at farmers markets, festivals and flea markets.
The alliance could also give Square a leg up on its mobile payments competitors like Isis and Google Wallet, which just became compatible with all card issuers. Square already starts out with an advantage over some of its competitors in that it doesn’t require phones to be equipped with near field communication (NFC). NFC is a wireless technology that allows a payment device (such as a phone) and a merchant’s payment terminal to communicate. Google Wallet’s NFC-dependency has been a hurdle, as the number of NFC options for mobile phones is limited to a handful (that doesn’t include the iPhone). Square, meanwhile, relies on GPS technology, making it compatible with most smartphones.
Though smartphones have a long way to go before they replace wallets, this new partnership puts mobile payments that much closer to mainstream. After all, if Starbucks is willing to make this leap, can other national brands be far behind?
Google Wallet Ruffles Some Feathers in Move to Cloud
Google Wallet took a big step toward mass adoption this week, but it may have stepped on some big toes in the process.
On Wednesday, Google, which had enabled payments only by Citi MasterCard and a Google-branded prepaid card since its launch nearly a year ago, made this announcement: “Today we’re releasing a new, cloud-based version of the Google Wallet app that supports all credit and debit cards from Visa, MasterCard, American Express and Discover.”
But apparently this was news to American Express, which countered that it never agreed to the deal.
A few more hoops
American Express spokesperson Bradley Minor told PCMag: “We want to make sure Google’s mobile wallet product meets the standards we set for our cardmembers in terms of the transparency and clarity about transaction detail. And right now, American Express does not have an agreement with Google for our cards to be used in the Google mobile wallet.”
Following AmEx’s denial, Google backtracked and rephrased the relationship in a statement: “We are in active discussions with American Express and look forward to working together as partners as the world embraces digital payments.”
The lack of an agreement doesn’t mean you can’t use an American Express card with the Wallet app. You can, but without an agreement, users may be on shaky ground. Minor told AllThingsD that it could shut off the feature at any time if necessary.
Changes opened up wider network
The wallet’s expansion to other major credit card networks came after Google made some key changes. First was simplifying the transaction process. Until this week, payment information was stored inside phones, and each transaction meant getting permission from mobile carriers, banks and credit card companies. By moving storage to the cloud, Google can charge credit or debit cards directly and make the transition easier for banks.
It also added two major security upgrades. One is that actual payment card numbers are no longer stored on the phone itself, but are instead stored on Google’s secure servers in the cloud. A virtual credit card number is stored on your phone. The second is remote locking and disabling of Google Wallet. If you lose your phone, you can lock the Wallet app remotely. Once your account is locked, thieves can’t make transactions.
Some barriers to adoption
One thing hasn’t changed, though — you still have to have a near-field communication (NFC)-enabled phone or Nexus 7 tablet to use Google Wallet. NFC is the technology that allows a payment device (in this case, a phone) to communicate with a payment terminal. So far, only Sprint and Sprint subsidiary Virgin Mobile support it. Between both carriers, only six handsets are compatible.
This could put Google at a disadvantage when Isis, a joint venture by AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon Wireless, launches its NFC wallet — with all the card companies already on board. Isis’ wallet is reportedly set to launch Aug. 20 in test cities of Austin, Texas, and Salt Lake City.
The slow-moving mobile wallet market may also get a boost from Apple within months. There has been much speculation that this year’s new iPhone will be NFC-enabled when it debuts later this year.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Looks Back on a Busy Year
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau just celebrated its first anniversary with — as you might expect from a government agency — an 80-plus-page report.
The report, issued to the White House and Congress, highlights what the CFPB has been up to this past year. And the government watchdog largely gives itself good marks as a crusader for consumers against financial institutions.
Here are some of the highlights — and some of our coverage of a how the new agency found its footing.
- The CFBP opened for business July 21, 2011, as the first federal government agency focusing solely on consumer financial protection. Created as part of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, the new federal watchdog was tasked with the mission of protecting consumers from harmful financial practices and products.
Read more: Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Opens for Business
- Near the end of 2011, the CFPB took aim at the fine print and jargon often associated with credit card agreements, proposing a streamlined two-page templatethat made fees and penalties clear. Although the template is not mandatory for issuers, several banks and credit unions have since used it as a starting point.
Read more: CFPB Proposes Two-Page Credit Card Agreement
- The CFPB hit the road in 2012 with a variety of town halls and field meetings. Among them, a field hearing about payday loans in Birmingham, Ala., in which consumer advocates and lenders alike gave new CFPB director, Richard Cordray, an earful. Consumer advocates called payday lenders predatory. Lenders maintained that they provided a useful service for those in dire straits.
Read more:Both Sides Sound Off on Payday Loan Debate
- As 2012 progressed, the CFPB took on overdraft protection, announcing in late February that it would be investigating banks’ overdraft protection programs and fees. Banks, consumer advocates argued, were using overdraft protection programs to fleece poor and inexperienced consumers.
Read more: Do Overdraft Protection Programs Prey on the Poor?
- The CFPB got some criticism in April, with consumer advocates accusing it of not doing enough to protect consumers from fee-harvesting cards. The CFPB had decided to back down from capping activation and application fees.
Read more: CFPB Decision Could Hit Subprime Borrowers Hard
- Much of the CFPB’s efforts in its first year involved fielding consumer complaints. After it opened for business, the agency began accepting complaints from consumers about certain financial products, including mortgages, bank accounts, student loans and credit cards. More than 15,000 out of 44,600 complaints were about credit cards, according to the CFPB’s report — and nearly half of those who complained about credit cards got some kind of resolution and financial compensation from their banks. In June, the CFPB began to make credit card complaints public in a database on its website — a move that dismayed banks.
Read more: Banks Sound Off On New Complaints Database
One milestone not touted in the report — In July, the CFPB (in a joint effort with the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency) slapped Capital One with $210 million in fines for what it deemed deceptive marketing.
With financial oversight in mind, here are some of the best personal finance blog posts of the week:
Frugal Zeitgeist explains why he doesn’t care about his credit score.
Punch Debt in the Face decides to go on a spending fast.
Wise Bread has eight ways to save money by using leftover food.
Money Crush dissects the meaning of “living within your means.”
Squawkfox explains why she’s resisting the urge to upgrade her phone.
Ready to be Rich outlines what to do in a financial emergency.
EBay Welcomes Under-18 Crowd — How to Keep Tabs on Your Child’s Account
By the middle of next year, kids under 18 may be able to open their own eBay accounts and start to bid on everything from baseball cards to jewelry, with parental supervision.
That brings a new load of challenges in terms of privacy and protecting kids from scammers and inappropriate content. And, for parents, it could mean finding ways to keep tabs on their kids’ spending — spending they are ultimately responsible for.
Young people already using eBay
In its user policy, eBay explains why the company currently requires account holders to be 18. “When eBay members agree to buy or sell items,” the policy reads, “they are entering into contracts with each other. In most countries, you must be at least 18 years old to enter into a contract.”
Yet minors are already part of the eBay community. Some are piggybacking on adults accounts — which is allowed, as long as the adult gives permission. Other minors are lying about their ages to set up their own eBay accounts and using PayPal to make purchases (PayPal allows minors 13 years or older to get PayPal debit cards with a parent’s permission).
Young Internet users have a history of finding ways around the rules. Take Facebook, for example. Consumer Reports found in a 2011 study that about 7.5 million Facebook users in the U.S. are under 13, which is in violation of Facebook policy. About 5 million were under the age of 10, the study found. Meanwhile, in April 2012, MinorMonitor (a website that lets parents monitor their children’s social media activity) surveyed 1,000 parents of Facebook users under 18. Responses indicated more than 38 percent of the users were 12 and younger.
Challenges for parents
Welcoming minors into the eBay community would allow young users to set up legitimate accounts of their own — and help eBay grow its community. But parents, who already have to be fierce protectors of their kids’ identities and social network presence, will now have to add online shopping to their scope. After all, if eBay opens the door to this group successfully, other online marketplaces are sure to follow — and it’s parents who will be ultimately responsible for any damage control, if their children bite off more than they can chew (or pay for).
EBay has yet to explain exactly what kind of access kids will have to the site as buyers and sellers. Yet some possible challenges facing parents include:
- Protecting their own wallets: If your child is using your credit card to shop eBay, keep in mind that whenever your child wins an auction, he (ultimately you) is “obligated to purchase the item,” according to eBay’s policies. In other words, if your child is new to eBay and starts bidding on every item that catches her eye and wins several auctions, you could be on the hook.Prepaid cards can be a useful budgeting tool for young people– and a way for parents to control how much money their kids have to play with. Consider requiring your child to use a prepaid card (that you load with a limited amount of funds) when shopping on eBay.If you decide to go the PayPal route (which is becoming the norm for many eBay buyers and sellers), keep in mind that PayPal will not allow you to link most prepaid cards to your account. You can, however, get PayPal’s branded prepaid MasterCard (and link it to the PayPal tied to your child’s eBay account). PayPal allows parents to add their children (age 13 and over) as secondary cardholders and top off the card online.
- Protecting their children’s identities: With financial and contact information being entered into the site, eBay has become a target for identity thieves. Users have also reported scam emails (designed to look like they are coming from eBay) that ask for debit and credit card details.Explain these risks to your kids. Instruct them not to give out personal or financial information to sellers over the phone, through the mail or online, unless they are certain the contact is legitimate.
Although eBay hasn’t released specific details about how it will protect its youngest users, limited access and parental guidance will be key, Devin Wenig, eBay’s president of global marketplaces, told The Wall Street Journal.
“We wouldn’t allow a 15-year-old unfettered access to the site,” he said. “We would want a parent, an adult as a ride-along.”
EBay could consider taking a page out of the financial services industry’s playbook. Protections have already been established in the banking world for those under 21. Under the Credit CARD Act, consumers under 21 can’t get credit cards unless they can prove they have steady income to pay monthly bills or have an adult co-signer on the account. And banks often require adult consent for a minor to set up a checking account.
Capital One Slapped With $210 million Penalty for Deceptive Marketing
Capital One has long been criticized for the way it’s dealt with subprime borrowers. Now, it’s going to have to pay — big-time. The bank reached an agreement Wednesday with two government watchdog groups that will cost it $210 million.
The agreement stems from coordinated investigations by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) into Capital One’s marketing practices. Capital One’s transgressions, according to a CFPB fact sheet, involve deceptive marketing of products consumers can add on to their credit card accounts — such as credit monitoring and payment protection (a type of insurance that allows customers to forgo minimum payments if they lose their jobs or become disabled).
The problem was that the customers, especially those with poor credit, were “pressured or misled into buying credit card products they didn’t understand, didn’t want, or in some cases, couldn’t even use,” said CFPB Director Richard Cordray in a statement.
The punishments are steep: Capital One must pay $140 million to the customers it misled into buying payment protection, an additional $10 million to those who bought unnecessary credit monitoring services, $25 million to the CFPB and $35 million to the OCC.
It must also submit to an independent audit and stop marketing payment protection and credit monitoring products until it submits a proposal for future marketing, which the CFPB must approve.
What did Capital One do?
When customers with low credit scores and low credit limits called Capital One to activate their new credit cards, according to the CFPB, they were routed to a third-party call center to be sold payment protection and credit monitoring services.
The CFPB said the sales tactics included:
- Telling consumers that purchasing extra products would improve their credit scores or put them in the running for higher credit limits.
- Neglecting to tell customers that the add-ons were optional.
- Failing to warn customers that they might not even be eligible for payment protection. For example, if you were unemployed, you were ineligible — protection applied only to some future bout of joblessness. Yet sales representatives sold them the product anyway. When those customers attempted to use their payment protection coverage, their claims were denied.
- Not disclosing the cost of extra services, leaving customers with the impression that they were free. In some cases, customers were enrolled in services without giving their consent and then encountered difficulty when trying to cancel them.
According to a statement from Capital One, the bank learned of what its third-party call center representatives were doing in late 2011, and immediately took action.
“We are accountable for the actions that vendors take on our behalf,” said Ryan Schneider, president of Capital One’s card division. “These marketing calls were inconsistent with the explicit instructions we provided to agents for how these products should be sold. We apologize to those customers who were impacted and we are committed to making it right.”
Who is eligible for a refund?
How can Capital One customers lay claim to a piece of the $150 million in refunds? Those who are still Capital One customers will receive account credits, while those who are not will receive checks. The roughly 2 million customers eligible for a refund include:
- Those who were sold an add-on product after Aug. 1, 2010, and those who tried to cancel a product but were convinced to keep it after talking with a call center representative. In addition to getting a refund for the cost of the product, these customers can also expect refunds for any over-limit fees resulting from the purchase of the product, as well as finance charges and interest.
- Those whose payment protection claims were denied because they were unemployed or disabled at the time of enrollment. These customers will receive a refund for the cost of buying payment protection — or will have their claims paid, if that amount is greater.
It’s up to Capital One to identify the customers it owes money. If you think you qualify for a refund, but are not contacted, get in touch with Capital One first. If it doesn’t resolve your case, contact either the OCC or the CFPB via their websites.
Credit Card Late Payments Continue to Fall
Whether a rare occurrence or an indication that consumer finances are becoming more stable, for the fifth month in a row reports for May have shown that credit card delinquencies continue to drop. Since the beginning of the year, credit card delinquencies have slowly declined for many of the major credit card issuers as experts and issuers alike hope that this continues on throughout the year. While for many of the issuers there was a decrease in delinquencies there were a couple that did increase. Details can be found within an article entitled, "Credit Card Late Payments Drop for 5th Month in a Row".
Even as the percent of those who are late on payments continue to decline, many experts believe that this trend could easily be reversed without any fault of the credit card issuers. One of the biggest things that would reverse this trend is the uncertainty of unemployment. While these levels still remain high nationally, there is nothing showing any reason why the unemployment rate should decrease any time soon. While it is not as big of a factor as unemployment, another reason on why this decline trend could be reversed deals with artificial inflation. This is done when consumers use funds that are not available to consumers year round. A good example of this is the use of tax refunds and other forms of revenue to pay on credit card debt. While the number of consumers do this is uncertain, researchers will have a better understanding once we move further into 2010 and these revenues start to become obsolete.