More evidence that banks and other institutions are already finding ways to skirt recently enacted regulations designed to protect consumers and will, someday, probably make an even bigger mess than the one the nation is still in the process of cleaning up comes in this WSJ report about purveyors of credit cards becoming quite creative recently.
Amid all the junk mail pouring into your house in recent months, you might have noticed a solicitation or two for a “professional card,” otherwise known as a small-business or corporate credit card.
If so, watch out. While Capital One Financial Corp.’s World MasterCard, Citigroup Inc.’s Citibank CitiBusiness/ AAdvantage Mastercard and the others might look like typical plastic, they are anything but.
Professional cards aren’t covered under the Credit Card Accountability and Responsibility and Disclosure Act of 2009, or Card Act for short. Among other things, the law prohibits issuers from controversial billing practices such as hair-trigger interest rate increases, shortened payment cycles and inactivity fees—but it doesn’t apply to professional cards.
Until recently professional cards largely had been reserved for small-business owners or corporate executives. But since the Card Act was passed in March 2009, companies have been inundating ordinary consumers with applications. In the first quarter of 2010, issuers mailed out 47 million professional offers, a 256% increase from the same period last year, according to research firm Synovate.
I’ve noticed these coming in the mail lately, but, like every other credit card solicitation, they quickly end up in the circular file. There has been only one exception though. We recently took American Express up on their gold card offer in return for getting a free Bose SoundDock Music System after we make $100 in purchases. The annual fee goes from free to $175 after a year, so, you know we won’t end up being long time gold card holders.