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April 14th, 2009

Does Your Bank Really Want To Help You?



Just yesterday we heard that complaints over rising credit-card rates and fees have grown so onerous that a federal committee has launch a probe in order to investigate lending practices at federally-supported institutions.

Today we hear that banks are more than willing to help struggling credit card customers, even going as far as forgiving a portion of their balance.

Which message are we supposed to believe?

HSH has always advised customers who are struggling to make payments to first contact their lender to make them aware of the situation. Contacting your lender early could help you save a lot of money, as well as preserve your credit, in the long run.

HelpWithMyCredit.org is a new site designed to help struggling credit-card customers get back on track. The site is sponsored by some of the nation’s top credit lenders like Bank of America, Citi, and Capital One. Yet, we’ve read a couple articles today that warn sites like these don’t tell customers the whole story:

But [lawyer Robert S.] Green, whose firm has multiple class-action lawsuits pending against banks, warns that the “HelpWithMyCredit.org” Web site lacks important educational information.

“People should know this is slanted from the bank’s point of view,” he says.

Investment adviser and financial blogger Mike “Mish” Shedlock warned his readers that banks are usually interested in helping themselves first and their customers second:

Rule to live by: Whenever banks appear to be offering help, the odds are overwhelming that they are really offering to help themselves to your pocket book.

To be fair, I am quite certain some people benefit from these programs. However, when that happens, it’s best to consider it an accidental byproduct of banks doing what is in their best interest, not yours.

“This website is an industry response to help prevent losses,” said HSH Vice President Keith Gumbinger. Their website can help banks engage customers in trouble before they get into deeper debt or consider responding to third-party resources who charge the lenders in order to help recover their customers’ losses, explained Gumbinger.

Green suggests finding a less biased educational credit card resource like Consumer-Action.org.

12 Responses to “Does Your Bank Really Want To Help You?”

  1. Barbara Says: April 15th, 2009 at 8:04 am

    I can’t speak for the other banks, but I can say that Chase is not interested in “helping” their customers. In fact, just the opposite. They are trying to push them over the edge.

  2. Tim Manni Says: April 15th, 2009 at 12:08 pm

    Hey Barbara, We’ve been hearing this a lot. These banks are battling ways to recovery as much money as they can while attempting to fulfill their obligations to their customers. Some relief may come next year when the bill restricting certain credit-card practices is enacted. Good luck, and if you have any ideas for a story please feel free to let us know. Thanks for commenting, Tim

  3. Barbara Says: April 21st, 2009 at 11:47 am

    Hi Tim, I assume you know the whole Chase story. If you don’t, here are a couple of sites where you can check it out… http://www.changeinterms.com and http://www.daily-protest.blogspot.com I think a lot of people to whom this didn’t happen personally, don’t really “get” the outrage that this group of Chase customers (myself included) feels.

  4. Tim Manni Says: April 21st, 2009 at 12:02 pm

    Hey Barbara, Thanks for the info — I will definitely check out those sites. Perhaps it will make for a good blog post. I think you’re are 100% correct in saying that unless something happens to you, it’s impossible to truly understand what others are feeling. Thanks for commenting, good to hear from you, Tim

  5. Alessandro Machi Says: April 22nd, 2009 at 3:44 am

    Hey Tim, I broke a couple of stories that seem to be shocking people into actually mentioning them in the comments section of various banking and financial blogs. Did you know you are considered a toxic if you have credit card debt with an interest rate of under 10%. You can read about it at http://dailypuma.blogspot.com/2009/04/are-you-toxic-asset-you-may-be-toxic.html Did you know that at American Express is canceling frequent flyer mile cards from their best customers and the American Airlines is then repackaging those same stolen miles to Citibank for better loan terms. http://dailypuma.blogspot.com/2009/04/breaking-news-amex-and-citibank-have.html Please consider supporting http://www.daily-protest.com It is time for a team of real rivals when it comes to negotiating with the credit card industry.

  6. Tim Manni Says: April 22nd, 2009 at 12:34 pm

    Alessandro, Credit cards are beyond a hot topic at this point — the situation seems to be boiling over! Thanks for sharing those websites, I’ll be sure to check them out, and yours as well. Thanks for commenting, Tim

  7. Alessandro Machi Says: April 22nd, 2009 at 2:24 pm

    Hi Tim. Unfortunately, the media keeps coming up with other stuff to hype. Pirates, Barack Obama’s Dog, the wonderful singer from England and on down the line. In the meantime Chase Bank spends a ton of money in California advertising their take over of WAMU bank. I miss those WAMU ads where they would make fun of all the other bankers that charge customers for every little thing. ———————– I must have checked my previous post a dozen times but I ended up leaving out the word asset, as in toxic asset. As in, “Did you know you are considered a toxic asset if you have if you have credit card debt and an interest rate under 10%.”

  8. Alessandro Machi Says: June 26th, 2009 at 5:30 pm

    If a bank proceeds on the notion that they can make more money by defaulting as many customers as fast as possible rather than by trying to help them, have they committed a crime? A crime such as treason against the citizens of the United States? If a bank can make more money by rejecting loans and reducing equity lines to ridiculously low levels, are they possibly committing a crime? Can the FBI look into this, please? http://www.daily-protest.com

  9. Tim Manni Says: June 29th, 2009 at 10:51 am

    Alessandro, I think some people would agree that you’re right. The new credit card reform is designed to halt deceptive and unethical practices by credit card companies — we’ll just have to wait and see if they work. My only argument that it isn’t a crime would be that many credit card contracts state that the company reserves the right to do a lot without notifying the customer first. Do you believe the new reform will have much of an impact? Thanks for commenting, Tim

  10. Alessandro Machi Says: July 19th, 2009 at 8:29 pm

    Unfortunately Tim, the reform bill has had a huge impact by not starting as soon as it was passed. Unfortunately, there is no consumer right to opt out of any change in terms, this makes the reform bill only a shell of what it could have been. Does it really matter if the credit card company gives me 15 or 30 extra days to notify me that they are raising my rates? I would rather have the right to opt out and say no, lets keep the card agreement as we originally agreed to, and I’ll stop using the card and continue to pay it off at the existing terms. I have uncovered a lot of bad things about the credit card industry and the badness seems to grow by the day. http://www.daily-protest.com http://www.bloggersagainstchasebank.com

  11. Tim Manni Says: July 20th, 2009 at 2:03 pm

    Alessandro, Unfortunately when any of us agrees to a credit card contract we’re are agreeing to their terms as stated in the fine print. Those terms usually include their right to raise fees and rates whenever they please. Since the card companies are giving you 2-4 weeks notice that they are raising your rates, that should be enough time to stop using the card, cancel it and find a new one. Thanks for commenting, Tim

  12. ace Says: August 2nd, 2009 at 12:09 am

    Banks are not interested in keeping your money safe. The only thing they’re interested in, is picking your pockets.

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HSH.com's daily blog focuses on the latest developments in the mortgage and housing markets. Our mission is to relate how changes in mortgage rates and housing policy, as well as the latest financial news, impacts consumers, homebuyers and industry insiders alike. Our 30-plus years of experience in the mortgage industry gives us an edge as we break down the latest changes in an ever-changing market.

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Tim Manni is the Managing Editor of HSH.com and the author of their daily blog, which concentrates on the latest developments in the mortgage and housing markets.

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