Thursday, July 30, 2009

Beer and profiling outside the White House too

Trying to settle a beef over a public beer has got to be tough. White House watchers were snarking because nobody bought American. That changed at the last minute, though. I don't think that's a big deal in a global economy, but then I drive a Subaru built in Indiana.

What's more interesting is what happens if President Obama, Professor Gates or Sergeant Crowley were to pay any part of the tab with plastic. Someone's credit rating could take a hit.

Alcohol, it appears, seems to be one thing on a growing list of purchases that credit card company gnomes are watching these days for warnings that we might flee to Tahiti with the remaining uncharged $13.29 or whatever on our credit card limits.

They watch what you buy, where you buy it and, increasingly, whether you buy enough. If they don't like what they see, they cut your credit and you get closer to being caught in a credit jam.

The gnomes like to think of this analysis as data mining, which they can do to help provide credit more efficiently and profitably. But as's Connie Prater reported recently, critics say it is a lot like redlining too. To some, such mining seems a long way from the five basic credit habits that Fair Isaac Co. bases its FICO scores on.

So how do you protect yourself? Use all your cards regularly, but sparingly. Pay off your balances each month. And pay cash for stuff you don't want the gnomes, or your significant other, to know about.

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