TEXT OF COMMENTARY
Tess Vigeland: Today, the first provisions of the Credit Card Reform Act are coming online. Among the changes, credit card companies have to mail bills at least 21 days before their due date, and give you 45 days notice before changing interest rates or fees. Of course, the industry started making its own changes to card agreements as soon as the law passed. That’s cause for concern for some cardholders, including commentator Rob Walker.
ROB WALKER: I’m a deadbeat, and I’m worried.
I know, you’re sick of hearing people confess their financial sins these days. But I’m a deadbeat to credit card companies — that is, a customer who doesn’t revolve their debt, and therefore, never pays interest. In the real world, this is responsible behavior. But in the card issuers’ world, it means you’re not doing enough for their bottom line.
I’m actually worse than a typical deadbeat. I’m one of those people with a no-fee, cash-back credit card who makes sure I get my $250 rebate check every year. I keep track of my points so they don’t expire, and when I cash them in, I pass on the gift cards or merchandise. I want the money.
That’s why I’m worried. Deals like this are starting to go away. Card companies put up with deadbeats because we’re more than balanced out by less vigilant customers who end up revolving their debt and racking up fees. Now the credit card business is being prodded to change its ways. In the big picture, that’s a good idea. But forget the big picture, what about me?
My cards reward program hasn’t changed yet, but in this economic environment it makes absolutely no sense for the issuer to keep it up. So, I know my days are numbered. And the truth is, it’s not even the money that I’ll miss. It’s what that money represents.
Most of the time, I’m not exactly a paragon of penny pinching, so getting my rebate is a once-a-year moment of feeling like a savvy consumer.
But what I really love is extracting a trophy from an industry that is among the supreme enemies of thrift. Like everybody else, I pretty much think of credit card companies as pests who fill my mailbox with misleading pitches, and bullies who profit from enabling shoppers to go into debt.
So yeah, the couple hundred bucks, that’s nice. But the idea of this huge, money-grubbing institution paying me to use its convenient product? That’s, yes, priceless.
VIGELAND: Rob Walker writes the Consumed column for The New York Times Magazine.
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