I am always amazed during times of trouble how true friends and true foes get sorted through life's filters. The friends who have been tried and true through times of trouble are priceless. There are also people however who, for whatever sick reason, see vulnerability and seem compelled to attack rather than assist or comfort. Sometimes attacks come from the people closest to us and conversely people whom we considered only casual friends come through the crunch like champs.
I firmly believe large businesses behave in ways that are rooted in basic human behavior so I want Chase Bank and American Express to know that I will not soon forget that when the chips were down for me during the recent financial crisis, they both went out of their way to kick me in the nuts.
I run a small business and had some unfortunate timing in attempting to launch some major new initiatives square into the jaws of last year's downturn. I lost a lot of money and will be recovering from the hit for years to come. I had two credit cards going into this crisis: an American Express Gold for the business and a Chase VISA for personal use. I had each of them for more than ten years and had been a very good customer to both, paying on time and rarely carrying a balance.
American Express called me nearly every week for a year trying to persuade me to use their "pay over time" feature. I finally relented since I knew I was starting a new venture and might need the extra cash flow. Four months later, when Lehman had just collapsed, after making a payment 48 hours after their deadline, 48 hours, AMEX crashed my previously unlimited spending limit, removed the new flex-pay option and raised my interest rates to the max allowed under their small print. This effectively reduced my credit with them to $0.00 and created a balance I'm still paying today. They made all of these changes overnight without notifying me.
Chase was even worse. When my account balance went over the limit due to fees they had charged, not purchases I made, they instantly raised my interest from the long held 9.99% to 29.99% not including added "over the limit fees" which made the effective interest rate even higher. I have paid them hundreds of dollars every month above the "minimum payment" but still somehow go over the limit and there are even more fees and more interest all of which just keeps piling up. Until my cash flow situation improves, I'm flat stuck in this tar pit.
There will come a day that I will have the cash to pay these balances and walk away from these companies. I surely will do that on the first day possible. But I want Chase and AMEX to know that I will not forget how I have been treated in this crisis. My local bank, a neighborhood bank where they really do know me, has been a real help in this crisis. They have been flexible, fees have remained constant and they thank me for the business I bring them. They have been a true friend.
I will be free of AMEX and Chase eventually but I will never stop looking for opportunities to remind them how I was treated when the chips were down. I will follow Michael Moore's excellent suggestions on credit card use and I will speak out for the harshest regulation possible to prevent all financial institutions’ continuing practice of what the Bible calls usury. Business is business and crooks are crooks. I know the difference. I see ads for AMEX and Chase all the time and every ad reminds me of how my pocket was picked to pay for those ads.
Good business is great. Revenge against these jerks? Priceless.