Friday, January 15, 2010

Charge your future usage : how did it happen ?

The way credit card companies forward calculate interest has sicken many users. Together with the 5 cents round up mechanism, there are cases where its not even the users fault not to totally pay off their last month balance.

Some are still in shock how consumers can be abused in such a way. Well, this is how ...

Credit card companies used to charge 18% interest on the amount you underpay and owe to them. Seeing that this high interest has caused many people in debt and even bankruptcy, banks are urged to reduce that rate. So the project of multi-tier interest rate was born.

If the amount you owe is not that much, banks may reduce that rate to 13.5% for example. Like wise, if you continue not to pay, banks will have the rights to charge 18% interest again. So lower interest rate is imposed on lower loan amount.

So far so good isn't it ?

Well, banks are going to give you more. In addition ...
We will give you 22 days interest free on all transactions, if last month outstanding balance, as per monthly statement, are settled within due date. In cases where this interest free is not applicable, we will charge interest on all transactions from the posting date.
Don't doubt my grammar, its a carefully formulated sentences very similar to the actual terms and clauses. All the commas and periods are there for a good reason.

It is still fair isn't it ? What it says is if I paid last month balance in full, I will not be charged interest for another 22 days. Else of course I should pay interest.

There are 2 sentences up there.

The first one evolves around monthly statement. If the bank generates your statement on the 1st of the month, you don't need to pay interest of the amount on that statement up to 22th. Which is also usually the payment due date. Ok still ...

The 'all' in blue color means all the transactions on that monthly statement. Not 'all' the other transactions you used before and after the statement. Guess what, the transactions you used before is a brought forward balance, so its NOT a transaction and therefore will continue be charged interest and excluded from this interest free offer. You are also NOT getting interest free for all future transactions because they are NOT on that statement yet.

The second part starts with "if interest free is not applicable". It doesn't say if you don't pay then we charge you. There are many other reasons interest free is not applicable and no matter what they are, you will be charged. So there is ONE specific scenario you may get interest free period and ALL THE OTHER scenarios would allow us to charge you. Thats basically what it sums up to.

Now there is also a word 'all' in the 2nd part. This time, there is no statement mentioned. This 'all' would mean ALL transactions including the future ones you are going to make. And the interest is calculated based on the posting date which is totally ok even if it is a future date.

I am not quite sure if I have presented this clearly. There is the trick of saying something seems genuine and simple but yet a small word in it turn the whole thing around. A seems-to-be very thoughtful offer has been given, most of us were ok with it and now its too late to turn the game plan.

Banks came to us on day light, offered us lower interest tiers and a new way to calculate interest ( with interest free period !! ) and we bought it. So now its too late for us to pursue normal channels to change this. Whatever left is to propagate this knowledge to more and avoid to be taken advantage off.

If still want to do more, please get more people to read this series of articles ...

How did it happen ? ( this article )