Credit Cards

Tips, news, reviews, caveats, trends, updates and analysis related to consumer and business credit cards, and prepaid debit cards. From the interest rate specialists @ FedPrimeRate.com

Friday, September 24, 2010

Half Glass Full: Business Credit Cards Better Than Ever for Responsible Borrowers

If you perform an internet search on “business credit cards”, you will more than likely return a myriad of results that paint them in a bad light simply because there are no added protections for card holders under the Credit Card Accountability and Responsibility and Disclosure Act of 2009 (CARD). The legislation was designed to protect not-so-savvy consumers who may experience drastic, unexpected interest rate hikes by not-so-honest card issuers willing to take advantage of them. Many business credit card holders were surprised to learn that CARD does not protect them, and so journalists far and wide are shaking their fingers at business credit cards, warning possible applicants against the ‘pitfalls’ of applying for business or “professional” credit cards.

These naysayers are not telling you the whole story.

For responsible credit card users, now is a great time to apply for a business credit card and use the current economic slump to your advantage. The Wall Street Journal reports that after CARD was enacted, credit card issuers mailed out 47 million professional offers in Q1 of 2010, a 256% increase from the same period last year. Why the huge jump? Because business owners are tightening their belts and postponing expansions, causing credit card issuers to lose profits. In a scramble to increase their own bottom lines, card issuers are relaxing certain application criteria for business (or “professional”) credit card applicants and beefing up the card reward programs. For instance, the Ink From Chase business credit card application has been changed to help make approval easier. The same Wall Street Journal article reveals that January 2010 mailings for the Ink From Chase card required applicants to provide the name of their company, the nature of the business, its address and its federal employer identification number. Solicitations in July, on the other hand, only required applicants to check a box that said ‘Yes, I am a business owner’ or ‘Yes, I am a business professional with business expenses.’ A Forbes blog also reports that the Ink From Chase card pays 3% back on fuel, home improvement, dining, and office supplies, as well as 1% on everything else. Small and home business owners are well able to combine personal and business expenses, making this and other similar business credit cards a very attractive option for business and even personal finance.

So, despite the lack of added protection by the Credit Card Accountability and Responsibility and Disclosure Act (CARD), these new and improved professional and business credit cards with expanded rewards programs can actually prove to be advantageous for the right kind of card user.

But who is that, exactly?

If you have a good credit score, pay your balance off every month, and do not usually incur late payment fees, the current economic climate has blown the winds of opportunity in your direction. Since the lack of added consumer protection in CARD only affects credit card users who tend to carry balances and are at times delinquent in their payments, these penalties are not a major source of concern for business owners who are conservative in their spending, keep good records, and pay off their credit card bills by the end of each month (at least most months). Getting a new business credit card now, while issuers are still looking to woo new applicants, can help build your business credit score and set you up nicely for the time when banks begin offering better business loans and you are ready to expand.

Don’t let the mainstream media tell you that this glass is half empty - it’s really half full.

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Monday, September 20, 2010

News from Discover Bodes Well for the Future of 0% Credit Cards

Discover More Black CardThe stock market performed well today. The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) gained 1.37% to close @ 10,753.62, while the broader S&P 500 added 1.52% to close @ 1,142.71. Financial stocks contributed to the day's advances, with companies like American Express (+3.6%) and JP Morgan Chase (+2.1%) looking good to investors.

Another shining star in the financial sector was Discover Financial Services, which gained 2.4%. Earlier in the day, the company reported third-quarter net income of $261,000,000, and added:

"...Credit performance continued to improve, with net charge-offs down $102 million from the prior quarter and a net chargeoff rate for the third quarter of 7.18%...'

"...The very positive credit trends that began to manifest themselves earlier this year continued to benefit our results this quarter,'...'The ongoing improvement in the outlook for credit performance of our cardmembers has enabled us to accelerate investments for long-term profitable growth. In addition, Discover card spending continued to grow nicely this quarter and our third-party credit and debit network businesses achieved record transaction volumes..."
This news is significant because it means that the approval rate for the most popular 0% credit card we recommend here at www.BalanceTransfer.cc, i.e. the Discover More Black Card -- is very likely to increase. Great news for anyone shopping for a consumer-friendly 0% Intro APR credit card.

Another reason stocks did well today: According to the National Bureau of Economic Research, the Great Recession ended in June of last year, which means talk of a double-dip recession for the United States should abate:

"...The Business Cycle Dating Committee of the National Bureau of Economic Research met yesterday by conference call. At its meeting, the committee determined that a trough in business activity occurred in the U.S. economy in June 2009. The trough marks the end of the recession that began in December 2007 and the beginning of an expansion. The recession lasted 18 months, which makes it the longest of any recession since World War II. Previously the longest postwar recessions were those of 1973-75 and 1981-82, both of which lasted 16 months.

In determining that a trough occurred in June 2009, the committee did not conclude that economic conditions since that month have been favorable or that the economy has returned to operating at normal capacity. Rather, the committee determined only that the recession ended and a recovery began in that month..."

Of course, we could get another economic downturn in the near term, but if we do, it would be considered a new recession, and not a double-dip for the recent Great Recession.

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Thursday, September 16, 2010

Credit Card Rakings for August

Discover More Black CardHere are the August credit card rankings for the cards we recommend here on www.BalanceTransfer.cc. As always, these rank are based on both the volume of applications, and approvals. This list is important because it gives credit consumers a good read on which banks are approving applications, and which banks are offering the most attractive credit card offers. Bottom line: no one wants to signup for an unpopular credit card deal, and no one likes it when a credit application is denied. Popular cards are popular for a reason, as smart card shoppers always go for the best possible deal. Here's the list:

  1. The Discover® More Black Card (click here)

  2. Discover More Card with $75 CashBack Bonus (click here)

  3. The Discover More Card (click here)

  4. The Discover More Biodegradable Card (click here)

  5. The Chase Freedom® Visa with $100 Bonus Cash Back (click here)

  6. Blue from American Express® (click here)

  7. Chase Freedom Credit Card (click here)

  8. Blue Cash® from American Express (click here)

  9. Chase Sapphire® Card (click here)

  10. Chase Freedom Visa with $50 Bonus Cash Back (click here)
It's no surprise that the Discover More Black Card is still #1. It offers the best 0% intro APR deal (12 months), as well 0% intro APR on new purchases for 9 months. And, as always, Discover offers the most generous cashback bonus of all the cards we recommend.

We really like American Express cards, as the customer service is truly excellent and the terms are invariably consumer-friendly. However, Amex has been quite stingy with approving applications lately, and that's why only 2 Amex cards made our list this month.

The Chase Freedom® Visa with $100 Bonus Cash Back Card has been climbing the list, as savvy card shoppers have been keen to take advantage of the bonus cash.

Thanks much for stopping by and reading. Stay tuned for next month's list.

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Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Will 0% No Balance Transfer Fee Credit Cards Return?

Discover More Black CardAs you might have already guessed, American banks are not jumping for joy about the new the Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure Act of 2009, also known as the Credit Card Act. The new law, together with new rules imposed on banks by the Federal Reserve in August of 2010, place limits on fees and other charges and, in general, make having a credit card in your wallet a much better financial arrangement for you.

If you think that banks have responded to the new credit card rules by coming up with creative ways to generate revenue, then you're right on the money.

For example, banks are no longer permitted to charge inactivity fees. However, some banks have figured out a clever way around this rule: charge an annual fee that's waived if the cardholder spends a certain amount on his or her card each year.

So what about 0% credit cards that don't charge a balance transfer fee? These offers were extremely popular during the pre-financial-meltdown credit boom, but they disappeared as the shockwaves from the 2008 banking crisis rippled through the American economy. "No fee balance transfer" cards still exist, but current offers from reputable banks don't feature the added benefit of a zero percent introductory annual percentage rate (APR) on transferred balances.

When will zero percent intro APR no fee balance transfer cards return to the American market? Nobody can say for sure, but it's a pretty safe bet that they will return eventually. Banks need time to figure out how to make credit cards as profitable as possible without breaking any of the new credit card rules. That might take many months, or even years. Moreover, don't expect these specific offers to return until the American economy is expanding at a decent pace, and sustainably.

Credit cards are still extremely useful financial tools that offer great benefits like purchase protection and cashback rewards. What's true now has always been true about credit cards: pay attention to the terms and conditions before signing on the dotted line, and do your best to avoid finance charges. Competition in the credit card market is still very healthy, so if you don't like the deal your current bank is offering, you can always pass and signup for a card elsewhere.

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Thursday, September 02, 2010

Senator Chuck Schumer Is Mad at Credit Card Banks

business credit cards
Business Credit Cards
I love my business credit cards. I've got 3, including a new one from Chase. Building my business's credit history is very important, but I also find the purchase protection very useful, as well as the way business cards make it easy for me to keep my personal and business spending completely separate.

It's so easy to vilify credit card banks for some of the sneaky tactics they sometimes employ to generate revenue via fees and interest. However, I know from extensive experience that if you use credit wisely, avoid carrying a high balance, and pay your bills on time, every time, chances are you will have few if any complaints about your credit card bank.

Moreover, I've been to many different parts of the world, and I've seen how difficult or expensive it is to get credit. I'm quite thankful for the easy credit that I enjoy as an American. For proof, all one has to do is step over our southern border and try to get a loan or credit card with a decent interest rate and fair terms. Good luck!

Credit card banks send out lots of mailings; lots of offers for both consumer and business credit cards. Many recipients of these mailings don't do what they know they're supposed to do, i.e. reads the terms and conditions associated with these offers. Sometimes a credit card offer looks like an offer for a consumer card, but is in fact an offer for a "professional" card. The difference is important, because a professional card is actually a business card, which means it's not covered under the Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure Act of 2009 (a.k.a the Credit CARD Act of 2009.)

Senator Chuck Schumer is mad at the credit card banks because they've allegedly started pushing professional cards, a lot. Here's a clip from the Senator's website:

"...U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer (D-NY) today expressed alarm about a new tactic credit card issuers may be using to evade last year’s milestone credit card law, warning that card issuers are increasingly pushing consumers into signing up for corporate cards that are not subject to the law’s protections. In a letter to the Federal Reserve, Schumer pressed for a crackdown on this potentially abusive practice so that unsuspecting consumers are not lured by card offers intended to circumvent the law passed by Congress.

'Credit card companies seem to be purposely hawking corporate cards to consumers who don’t own a business and may even be retired. This is more than deceptive marketing; it is a dirty trick meant to get around the new credit card law. We need to put an immediate stop to this scheme, but in the meantime, consumers should be sure to read the fine print of the offers they are getting in the mail. This is the latest, most brazen attempt yet by the credit card industry to get around the law,' Schumer said.

Last year’s credit card law, signed by President Obama, imposed a host of reforms on consumer credit cards, such as a ban on rate increases in the first year of a cardholder’s agreement and a requirement that the card issuer provide 45 days notice before a rate increase can be assessed in later years. But these reforms are not applicable to corporate, or professional, cards – which are intended for use by small business owners.

Not coincidentally, credit card companies appear to now be marketing these corporate cards more widely, to ordinary consumers who don’t own a business and may even be retired. According to a market research group Synovate, mailings for corporate cards increased a whopping 256 percent in the first quarter of 2010. Average consumers are unwittingly signing up for the cards without realizing they are not covered by the stronger rules governing personal credit cards. In fact, the card companies appear to be playing to that confusion in the application materials for these corporate cards. A published report last week noted that an application form recently issued by one major card company no longer includes a section seeking detailed information about the potential cardholder’s business. Instead, the application merely requires a box to be checked indicating 'Yes, I am a business owner' or 'Yes, I am a business professional with business expenses.' This simplified application could easily prevent a card applicant from realizing the nature of the card they are signing up for..."


OK, and here's Senator Schumer's proposed remedy:

"...In response, Schumer proposed today in a letter to Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke that card companies be required to solicit and verify an applicant’s federal tax identification number before approving a corporate card application. This way, Schumer said, the card companies would no longer be able to trick an ordinary consumer into signing up for a card that is not covered by the new credit card law..."

Here's what I propose: The Business Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure Act of 2011. Why 2011? Because you know how long it takes for Congress to work things out.

Here's another idea: have the Federal Reserve put new rules in place that restrict credit card banks from engaging in anything that is obviously unfair with regard to business credit cards. They have the power to do it. They did it with consumer credit cards earlier this year.

Remember to read those terms and conditions carefully. If you signed up for a professional card thinking that you were signing up for a consumer card, just cancel the account. Lots of of credit card banks are very eager to get your business, so it's really no big deal, in my opinion. I wasn't born rich, and I need access to credit to run my business. I'm very happy to see plenty of competitive offers continue to stream into my snail-mail box. Credit is good. Competition is good. It's a great country.

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