Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Financial shocks

Today's fun money stat: Your ATM is a drug dealer.

From the AP:

Chances are there's cocaine in your wallet. Researchers looked at 234 bank notes from 17 cities in the U.S. and found that 90 percent had small traces of the illegal drug.

Bills from larger cities, such as Baltimore, Boston and Detroit, were among those with the highest average cocaine levels. Salt Lake City had the lowest.

Not surprising on either the high- or low-end front -- glad to see my semi-hometown, Balmer, is representin'.

Also not surprising: The notice I got in the mail today from American Express today about their terms crackdown. In the face of growing defaults and next year's looming credit card reform laws, Amex, like most other credit-card companies, is looking to pry higher profits out of its remaining customer base. My APR is about to jump from about 11.5% (8.24% plus the prime rate) to 17.24%. If I'm late on a payment, it vaults to 27.24%.

I've never been late on this Amex, but I did go late on a Providian card payment about three years ago when I was traveling and lost track of dates. I'm usually careful, but I can't swear I will never for the rest of my life miss a deadline.

Should I do that, I'll also be whacked with a $39 late payment fee.

Meanwhile, Chase-- the bank with which I have a backup card that thankfully has no balance -- has yoinked minimum payments up sharply, in some cases more than doubling what people owe. Three guesses what happens when someone owes a larger monthly payment than they can afford to pay? Oh look, late fees and higher APRs!

I realize credit card debt is a problem people opt into, and bear responsibility for. But also -- arugh. This is gonna be ugly.