Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Credit Cards and American Consumer Debt

Household debt has now exceeded the national debt of the USA - what does this mean, this means that the people who live in America, you and me, owe more money to companies (particularly banks) than the entire government does to other countries!!!!

This figure is incredible but how has debt spiralled so far out of control. The average American family owes more than $16,000 on credit cards, many only making minimum payments. With some credit cards charging exorbitant "loan shark" style interest of 39%, late payment fees, partial payment fees etc etc credit card companies are able to double their money annually! This is quite possibly the most rewarding part of thew whole financial system for banks. The majority of hedge funds do not produce mid to high double digit returns - for mainline banks this is a n incredible pipeline that they will continue to milk until America wakes up.

Minimum payments (around 4% on average) will require 15 or more years to pay off if no further charges are made to the card. This is with a more normal 19.98% apr.

With the Universal Default Clause your credit card company can change your interest at any time for almost any reason, your debt is too high with another company, you were late on your mortgage payment etc etc. This is one of the scariest and most open ended, open to abuse clauses in the American legal system as it exposes more than 1 billion card holders, yep 300
million Americans with an average of 3 cards each, to the whim of the card company. Should you choose to retaliate in any fashion they deem unfit to this injustice, there goes your FICO score.

Meanwhile whilst on the topic of FICO scores, this number has become more critical than ever before as now it holds the key to how high your charges on your mortgage will be. Fannie May et al will be charging higher fees and possibly require higher down payments from "sub prime" borrowers. This means anyone with a 680 or less is going to be dinged - i believe on a sliding scale.

Copyright Jonathan Rose 2007 - Creative Commons License

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