Used to be you only got in a credit card jam if you ran up a tab and didn't pay. Now you can get in trouble if you don't run up a tab too. And you still have to pay. That's progress.
I know it sounds screwy, but that's one outcome of a bunch of changes that credit card companies have been making ahead of new reforms kicking in next February, according to USA Today's Kathy Chu, ConsumerAffairs.com's Mark Huffman and other reporters.
The reforms shut off a lot of ways that card companies have been making money off regretably improvident consumers the last several years. So the companies are working between now and February to rejigger revenue streams from our accounts and, more equitably perhaps, tap prudent consumers too. That's why, for example, some are adding annual fees and various inactive account charges on cards we don't use much.
I can see their point. It probably costs the people at one my credit card companies more money to mail me zero-balance-due statements than they'll ever make off that account. We pay in full on those rare occasions we use that card. But I don't buy the point either. I don't want to pay $30 just to carry a spare card. Nor do I want to charge something just to avoid the $30.
Blogger Jim Wang at www.bargaineering.com offers one solution to this dilemma that seems emotionally satisfying if nothing else works. Order up enough of those hard-to-peddle circulating $1 coins from the U.S. Mint to meet your credit card company's transaction threshhold and pay with plastic. Then deposit the coins in your bank to help pay your credit card bill when the statement comes.
And don't forget your reward points on the way out.