Credit card users, it's time to fight back: Shop around

ECONOMIC NAVIGATION AND SIGHTSEEING

March 15, 2009|By JAY HANCOCK | JAY HANCOCK,jay.hancock@baltsun.com

In boasting a few days ago about Citigroup's $19 billion operating profit for January and February, CEO Vikram Pandit rattled off some of the cash cows, including "credit to consumer and corporate customers."

That means you, credit card users. The good news is that Citi and other banks plastered by bad mortgage loans are partly rebuilding their capital with huge spreads between what they pay to get money and what they charge to lend it. The bad news: That means continued high interest rates on credit cards - despite the government's bringing short-term rates to historically low levels and despite the billions in taxpayer bailouts that Citi and some other card banks are getting.

"Credit card issuers are jacking up rates and fees," American Banker, a daily trade newspaper, reported a few days ago. American Express raised rates by up to 3 percent on more than half its card business, the company's chief financial officer, Daniel Henry, told analysts last month.

To fight back, shop around. Discover's More card is offering 0 percent introductory interest on purchases for six months and on transferred balances for 12 months, with 10.99 percent after, says LowCards.com. To qualify, you need a good credit rating. For other offers, check: www. lowcards.com.

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