Monday, June 27, 2011

879 Congratulations

879 Congratulations

Comes this pitch from Chase.  Seems like they’re in the mail box every day.  Chase, Citi, Bank of America, the top three walking dead of the big bank world.  Every day, some new credit card, better than the old ones.

Congratulations, you’re pre-approved.  Just fill out the form or call this handy dandy toll free number and you’re on your way.

But this one really looked good.  Zero percent on balance transfers for a year. A previous year’s zero-balance year has expired and while the loan hasn’t been reduced significantly, the interest rate is back up there in the stratosphere.

So let’s call Chase and see what they will allow as a credit line, maybe move the debt over.  “Oh, we can’t tell you that until you apply, and are approved.”  

The credit reporting bureaus consider a line of credit a loan.  The logic makes sense.  At any time you want you can get a cash advance that maxes out your card.  So they assume a worst case scenario and that you will -- or at least might.   If your Wells Fargo line of credit is 50-grand, the reporting bureaus assume that’s what you might use.

So when they pitch you for a credit card, they’re pitching you for a loan.  Here’s where the banks are worse than the loan sharks.

You go to the shark on the corner and you say, “hey, I need 50 grand.”  The shark says “sure,” gives you the 50 and you’re paying the Vig for the rest of your life.  But at least you know how much you owe.

Go to DeadBank and they want you take out a loan for a figure they won’t give you.  Why?  Because they’re so conVEEENyent.  If your point is to borrow to cover another debt and you don’t know whether the new card will actually do that, you’re just making your credit score worse.

And all this brings up a whole ‘nuther point.  Since you have to give them all kinds of intimate information on the application (Name, address, bank account numbers, Social Security number, gross income, etc.,) what, exactly, does “pre approved” mean?

Some possibilities:

- We went through the phone book.  You’re there. If your credit is good enough for Verizon, it might be good enough for us.

- We went through the inmate population list.  You’re there.  We’ll always know where to find you.

- A birth certificate but no death certificate has been issued in your name.

-  You have at least one of the following:  a driver’s license, auto registration, hunting, fishing license, gun carry permit, library card, Costco Membership Card, AARP card, voter registration card, draft card, Blockbuster card, Rotary Club card.

- Your credit score is above 100.

-  We found your picture on a milk carton.

- You are the president of JP Morgan Chase.  Or the United States.

- You pitched a perfect game in a World Series.

-  Our computer assembles names and addresses from the 26 letters of the alphabet and the digits 0-9 and yours came up.

Shrapnel (pre approval edition):

--The pre-approval card trick could catch on in other industries.  In fact, you have to wonder why it hasn’t.  Wake up and smell the dollars!

--You’re pre-approved for expedited service at Kennedy Airport.  Just fill out the application and bring it with you at flight time.  No interest, and as a signing bonus, you don’t have to take your shoes off at the TSA check-in and we won’t ogle your nakedness going through the MRI pat-down machine.

--You are pre-approved for funeral services at the house of worship of your choice.  Fill out this application and have the mortician throw it into the coffin.  (St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Temple Emanu-El and Yankee Stadium depend on availability -- some exclusions apply.)

Amplification and followup to Wessay™ # 865, “Car Bunk(le) which decried the state of automotive journalism today and saluted the late Jerry Flint of Forbes and the late Tom McCahill of Mechinix Illustrated. After posting, I was made aware of the work of Dan Neil, of the Wall Street Journal and previously of the LA and NY Times.  Neil is as funny as McCahill, as flinty as Flint and as factual as my colleague Doron Levin.  I recommend his work without reservation.

I’m Wes Richards.  My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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© WJR 2011

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