Like millions of Americans, I received a letter from by credit card company stating “We are making changes to your account terms.” That’s code for we’re going to increase your interest rate.
I’ve heard many stories since the financial crisis of 2008 of credit card companies increasing the interest rate on balances up to 30% for cardholders regardless of credit score or repayment history. In this case the lenders are gouging their customers to make up for losses last year and to grab more profits ahead of the imposition of tougher rules sometime in mid-2010. It serves as a reminder to all of us why we should avoid debt; in debt we are the servant of the lender. Previous to this recent letter I received, I thought that the credit card companies themselves aren’t good or evil, just providing a service. But Citibank has given me a reason to doubt this.
You see, the letter I received details how my interest rate is going up, from 13% to 24% in a few weeks, but that I can opt-out of these changes and close my account in due course. The kicker is that they also offer a lower interest rate of 10% for one year if I borrow at least $3000 as a balance transfer (+3% balance transfer fee of course). So let’s say that I am carrying a balance too big to pay off all at once and this increase in interest rate is going to push my ability to make my monthly payments near impossible. But there’s this attractive lifeline of additional $3000 or more I can take! Wow, how generous to offer this “special rate” to coerce me into more debt, and they do it by increasing the interest rate in the first place. If their goal was to turn me into a permanent debt slave, this would be exactly the tactic to take. So is that what this company wants? Are they actively trying to turn my family, your family, our friends, our communities into permanent debt slaves? Do they wish we would take out more and more debt, just to the point where we can pay the interest but always stay beholden to them as our master? Perhaps they do. Here’s why I think so …
Who is likely to accept this offer? Well, if you pay off your balance every month, then you don’t care about this and if it really bothers you then you close the account. If you carry a balance from month to month, but could pay it off, then perhaps you do pay it off; you’re not going to let the rate go up and you wouldn’t borrow additional money you don’t need to keep the rate where it is already. If you carry a balance and cannot pay it off, then this interest rate increase is a really big deal. And that offer to get even more money would be even more tempting. This is the person that the letter is designed for.
So if those with balances that cannot be paid off are the ones most likely to take this offer of additional debt, why is Citibank doing it? Why do they want people to be even more indebted to them? Why are they targeting people who cannot pay off their balances in full? Because that’s the customer they want most. The most profitable customer. The one who goes to work every day to earn money to pay the interest on their debt. Citibank’s debt slaves (yes, debt is slavery, a perverse kind without the need for chains). The decision makers at Citibank are motivated to serve money, not people. By serving money, they are actively opposed to God; we’re all familiar with the verses that emphasize that one cannot serve God and money. This company is on the wrong team and we need to stand up to them.
Other companies are surely as bad as Citibank, and you probably have your own story of injustice to share. At this point I also need to mention that I’ve spoken with lots of wonderful people who work for Citibank; if you work for Citibank or a company with similar lack of Godly values, consider finding a new employer or do your best to change the culture from the inside.
So what can be done? There are lots of things we can do! If you don’t have debt, but use the services of companies like Citibank, then close all of your accounts with them. That’s what I’m in the process of doing. I earn cash back from their credit card, but who cares. If my getting a dollar back from my purchases means a slave owner gets a dollar too, then I’ll gladly give up my dollar if it denies a dollar to the slave owner. I’m moving my checking account to a company with values; Wainwright bank is high on my list. Credit unions have wonderful reputations as good corporate citizens; I’d love recommendations. We need to think of any way that these companies earn money from us and cut them off.
If you do have credit card debt, and you cannot pay it all back, put all of your prayers and effort into getting out of debt. Get an extra job, train to earn more, follow God’s lead to freedom because God wants you free. God wants us to pay back what we borrow; to do otherwise would be stealing.
If the debt load seems beyond any solutions and you feel despair, you shouldn’t feel bound by morality; do what the law allows. For example, if you’ve paid back the principal long ago and are still in debt because of excessively high interest rates, I don’t believe that you should feel morally bound to pay. Legally you owe the money, and legally you may be able to declare bankruptcy. Talk to an attorney and get free. By the way, do not go and borrow a lot of money before declaring bankruptcy, because that is stealing.
We can all pray that God would intervene in the lives of the company management and open their eyes to a better way.
And we can all hold the line on the debt we have and take no more. Be firm, God is on your side in this. Let’s make getting out of debt a top priority. You can do it, it is possible. Work out a budget; make a debt repayment schedule; figure out how long it will take. Do it with other people; partner with a friend or stranger, or find a mentor; my church has a team of people who help with this.
So what do you think? Post in the comments section. What are the good financial companies out there? What do you disagree with? What other companies should be avoided? Take this any direction you feel led to.
With God’s help all things are possible! God bless!