Credit Card

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With all of the reports that I’ve been hearing about people who have seen their credit lines decrease by numbers like 45% over the past few weeks or months, it seemed like a good idea to revisit all of the credit lines (and rates) on the cards that I have in my arsenal.

Last time I did this was in April and my total credit line back then was $110,820.

Here are the specifics as of today:

Bank of America Business MasterCard
Originally an MBNA account before they were bought out by Bank of America, I opened this account in March of 2005 when I started to divide my personal and business expenses and keep track of them separately. Turned out to be a great move as it was shortly there after I realized how much money I was bleeding on business expenses. I do not carry this card, but automatic payments are set-up for my monthly business expenses.
Current Balance: $0
Credit Limit: $26620 (No change)
Rate: 9.9% (No change)

CitiBank AT&T Universal MasterCard
I opened this account in April of 2007 utilizing a 0% for 12 months offer. I wrote a $6000 check to myself, which I originally dropped into my ING Direct savings account to jump on the “arbitrage” bandwagon. Shortly afterwards, I pulled the money out to finance the siding project. Now paid off, this is the only card I carry in my wallet for things like gas.
Current Balance: $0
Credit Limit: $9500 (Up from $8500)
Rate: 9.960% (Down from 11.26% — though this is the card where my rate was supposed to go up yesterday but still hasn’t.)

Chase Bank Visa Card
This was one of my first credit cards. I opened the account in 1998 and it was one of the cards that I ran up a considerable balance on before I got my act together. The highest it ever went was $12905 and that was in October of 2005. By August of 2006, I’d eliminated the balance, but continued to use the card for gas and the occasional purchase. Balance was always paid in full each month. In June of 2007, I took advantage of a 4.99% for the life of the balance offer to fund the siding project. I don’t carry this card.
Current Balance: $0
Credit Limit: $19200 (No Change)
Rate: 13.99% (Down from 15.24%)

Bank of America NHL MasterCard
Another of my original credit cards originally opened through MBNA in 1997 for a free t-shirt. This is also another card that I ran up a 5-figure balance on. In May of 2004, it topped out at $10915. By November of 2005, I had wiped the balance out. Now I have my internet service provider automatically bill to this card each month, and like clockwork, I pay back the $42.95 automatically on the same day using an autopay set up from the MBNA days. I do not carry this card and have not carried a balance since November of 2005.
Current Balance: $0
Credit Limit: $27400 (No Change)
Rate: 17.74% (Down from 18.74%)

Bank of America Platinum Plus Visa Card
Originally opened in March of 2005 as a failed plan to use balance transfers to consolidate balances at a lower rate. At first I transferred $5000 to this card. Evidently, not having learned my lesson the first time, I transferred another $5000 to this card in March of 2006. Luckily the rate was only 6.25% for both transfers. I wiped out the balance, which topped out at $6925 in March of 2006, in January of 2007. I do not carry this card.
Current Balance: $0
Credit Limit: $15400 (No Change)
Rate: 14.99% (Down from 18.24%)

Bank of America LendingTree GoldOption Loan
This was a loan for $10000 I took out in December of 2002 to, again, consolidate a few balances and put some much needed cash in my hands. At the time, it was LendingTree.com that found me the loan at 9.9%, and when the big check made out to me came in the mail, it was from MBNA. After a couple years of paying it down in regular $226 intervals, MBNA sent me a credit card attached to the account and started treating it like a credit card. With each month, the rate would rise another half percent or so. Not cool. I made my final payment in March of 2005 when the rate had climbed to 13.24%. I do not carry this card.
Balance: $0
Credit Limit: $13700 (No Change)
Rate: 12.99% (Down from 24.99%)

Okay, so amongst all of the discouraging reporting of credit lines dropping and rates rising, somehow I find myself with a total credit line $1k higher than 8 months ago and that none of my rates have gone up.

Most went down, actually, and that last one was cut in half!

Really, all of the changes have been beneficial to me.

So is credit really that hard to come by?

Maybe I’m in for a rude awakening…

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MoneyMateKate mentioned this a few weeks ago on her site and I kinda selfishly thought to myself, “Wow, sucks to be her…”

But now, after the letter I received yesterday from Citibank, well, sucks to be me too.

Here’s the body of the letter:

Notice of Change in Terms

I know, it’s tough to read but the main line reads:

We are increasing your variable APR for purchases. Your purchase APR will equal the LIBOR Rate plus 13.99%, with a minimum APR of 16.99%. As of September 17, 2008, this purchase APR is 16.99%. This APR equals a daily periodic rate of 0.0465%.

Okay, so the purchase APR is 16.99% and has been since September 17, 2008.

That’s news to me.

In fact, logging in to my Citi account, it clearly states that my purchase APR is 9.960%.

Nice of them to mail it so late that I received it in December, huh?

Wait, they mentioned something about December 3rd too…

Let me read it again…

Okay, so this means that tomorrow my purchase APR is going to jump from 9.960% to a minimum of 16.99%? Wow…

It really sucks to be me.

Honestly though, I’m not too worried about this because I don’t use the card for anything other than gas these days (so it’s easy to pay in full each month), but at the same time, I’m a little offended that they’d jack my rate so high for no apparent reason.

I know it’s their right, but still…

And sure, it may be because they’ve never made much money off of me. I mean, this is one of the accounts I opened to finance the siding project. I put a quick six or seven grand on it, at zero percent, and then put it away until the balance was paid.

Or maybe it’s across the board, you know, in an attempt to keep the company afloat. That’s probably more likely…

But for those that do carry a balance from month to month, this is like a death sentence.

I used to carry 5-figure balances at rates comparable to 16.99% (or, gasp!, 24.99%) and I’ll be the first to tell you, it’s hard getting hit for $200+ in finance charges each month. It’s a tough hole to dig out of…

If your in that situation and you get hit with this letter, I strongly suggest that you respond to the letter opting out and declining the change in terms. Sure, they’ll close your account, but I’m sorry, better credit card offers are still out there and you should look for them.

Citi’s days are numbered, I’m afraid.

No, “afraid” isn’t the right word… Have I mentioned before that I’m not a fan of their online interface? If not, I just did.

(Actually, I mentioned it here back on July 24)

They’re the only credit card company I have an account with that actually makes it difficult to make payments…

Looks like I’ll be swinging back to my Bank of America cards to pay for gas again.

You know, just in case I don’t pay in full one month…

Anyone else get this letter?

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Debt Free...again!So remember that ill advised $1500 “convenience” check that I wrote to myself as a birthday present and used to pay down the principle on my mortgage in a failed attempt at having my PMI (Private Mortgage Insurance) removed?

Well, sticking to the original 15-week “set it and forget it” payment plan, it’s officially gone as of this morning.

My credit card balances are all $0, just like they were back in March

It still hasn’t sunk in yet.

And I’m not sure it really will.

It didn’t the first time…

I’ve found that saving (instead of paying back) is really, really, really hard

So much so that I’m considering writing an even bigger check (the kind that come with your credit card statements) to myself, transferring it into my ING savings account, and then paying down the subsequent balance like I’ve become so accustomed…

Roundabout way of operating, I know, but it’s just a thought…

Logging in to check my credit card balance ($0 – woohoo!), I was hit with this offer from CitiBank:

ThankYou Network Offer

Banks are struggling right now or so I’ve heard. Have you heard that news too? I hope so…

Anyway, they’re apparently sweetening their deals in an attempt to get more people in the door depositing money and I’m certain that’s exactly what this specific offer was designed to do.

Now, I’ve made my feelings pretty clear on what a bunch of crap rewards programs are so it’s not sucking me in but, even still, I wanted to see exactly what 10,000 reward points might earn me.

No sense in looking up the 1,000,0000 point prize — I’d never be lucky enough to win something like that.

So, after spending over a half hour (I have no life) browsing the “Thank You” rewards site, here’s what I came up with:

Yep. A toaster. What is this, 1975? Granted, it looks pretty nice… for a toaster.

It’s the KitchenAid KMTT200OB 2-Slice Metal Toaster in Onyx Black and Stainless Steel.

Usually it costs 13,900 points, which means that you’d have to charge nearly $14k to “earn” this toaster without this, um, generous offer.

But as luck would have it, it’s on sale right now for $9600, err, 9600 points.

Wow, such a deal!

That makes it low enough that you can get it for FREE from Citi for opening a Citi checking account… (shhhh! you’ll still have to pay the shipping charge.)

For the record, this toaster is listed for $62.32 on Amazon.

Shipping is free there — but it doesn’t come with a checking account.

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Credit ReportThis past weekend while listening to some local financial talk show on the radio, they mentioned AnnualCreditReport.com.

A few months ago, I’d visited the site, submitted all of my information, and selected Equifax as my report of choice. Things seemed to be working great — until they forwarded me on to Equifax’s website.

Once there, they tried to up-sell me (not unexpected), and they asked for a user name and password. I didn’t have one — and I didn’t want to sign up for anything either.

No way around it, they weren’t going to display my report.

It left a bad taste in my mouth — I felt like I’d been ripped off even though I hadn’t spent a dime.

So on Sunday, with prompting from the radio show, I went back to AnnualCreditReport.com for another try.

I entered all of my info, steered away from Equifax — choosing Experian instead, and clicked ‘Submit’.

Experian also tried to up-sell me with monthly updates and stuff like that. Down at the bottom, though, was the link for “No thanks. Show my report.”

Click!

And there it was!

A lot longer than I’d expected… but nothing negative on there…

It lists 17 accounts, all thankfully in good standing — 4 Bank of America accounts, 2 BMW Financial Services accounts, 3 Chase Bank accounts, 1 Countrywide account, 1 First USA account, 1 McCue Mortgage account, 2 Sears accounts, 1 Toyota account and 2 Citi accounts.

Does that add up to 17? I sure hope so.

For each account, it tells you when you opened it, what the credit limit is, what your balance is, recent payment info, whether you’ve ever been late on a payment, whether the account is open or closed, and lots of other fun stuff.

Nothing real earth shattering, but still some neat info to leaf/scroll through.

Thankfully, while I don’t exactly remember opening all 17 accounts, nothing seemed out of the ordinary and little additional thought explained each and every entry.

For one of the Chase entries, I would have been 9 years old when the account was opened…

Hmmm… Identity theft?

Well, no.

It’s obviously one of my parent’s accounts where I’m an authorized user — likely used while I was in University. To their credit, the status for that account is: Open/Never Late.

Fantastic!

As I get my “stuff” more together (in preparation for the remodelling), I’ll detail the, well, details…

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In an effort to boost my savings rate more rapidly, I’ve set-up a payment plan that will pay down the $1500 credit card convenience check I wrote to myself earlier this week.

Yeah, the check that I used to accelerate the PMI cancellation process by a few weeks.

In the past, with a $1545 balance ($1500 + $45 transaction fee) hanging over my head, I would have attacked it like crazy until it was gone. I’m thinking… two payments.

Problem being, using that method, I’d continue to be broke well into September. Maybe even October.

I’ve felt tapped out for a few months now already and I really need to get a comfortable buffer so that I’m not right up against the wall for a few weeks each month — you know, when your checking account balance is less than 4 figures…

It’s funny, that used to be the norm. Now it just makes me nervous.

So I set up an automatic payment plan through Bank of America to pay Chase $103 every Friday for the next 15 weeks.

15 Week Payment Plan

I realize that the balance is at 0% until May of 2009, so to make the most of my money, I should just pay the minimum until April, but I’d really prefer to be 100% debt free by the end of the year instead of leaving a small balance just kind of swaying in the breeze for months and months.

This way, by November 21st, the credit card balance will be back to zero. The PMI should be long canceled. And the car should be paid off.

Total cost to me? That $45 transaction fee. I can handle that.

I’ll then have the whole month of December to “practice” saving instead of making debt payments before we slide into 2009…

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Fudgie the Whale - Happy Birthday to Me!Using one of those 0% credit card offers, I wrote a $1500 check to myself and deposited it into my checking account yesterday as a pseudo birthday present to myself.

Once the check clears, probably today, I intend to send all $1500 towards my mortgage to put myself beyond the 22% mark on the balance which should kick off the automatic cancellation of PMI.

I have a sinking feeling that when I put in my third cancellation request that Countrywide will come back and say, “No, you actually need to hit the 25% mark before we cancel the PMI… Oh, and please send us an additional $135 too!”

A response like that will be deflating…

By the numbers alone, I would have made this benchmark later this month without taking this short-term loan but I feel a little bit more comfortable doing it this way as I’m not tapping myself out.

In reality, I’m not really taking on more debt — I’m just shuffling it around a bit to a lower interest rate. At least, that’s how I’m justifying it to myself…

From here on out, I’m going to relax the mortgage paydown pace and focus more on the auto loan. That should be finished in short order at which point I’ll focus more heavily on savings.

Oh, and let’s not forget the new $1500 balance I’ll have on my Chase credit card…

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Meerkats at the Metro Toronto ZooAs expected, CitiBank hit me on my latest statement with some Foreign Transaction Fees we unknowingly incurred while we were on vacation earlier this month.

On my last statement, they charged me $5 for one Canadian transaction that I made online to buy some CFL football tickets.

Naturally, though I’d made the initial purchase weeks in advance, they didn’t display that additional fee on my “latest transactions” until after I’d already made 6 more purchases while in Canada. Gee, thanks…

You see, the Metro Toronto Zoo was a pretty good deal and I enjoyed the meerkats, but had I known that it was costing me an additional $5 each time I pulled out my Citi MasterCard, I probably would have kept it in my pocket.

So on this latest statement that came out this morning, I was kind of expecting $30 in foreign transactions fees, you know, $5 multiplied by 6. That would make sense…

But I was incorrect.

The foreign transaction fee listed on my latest statement is $31.33.

No explanation of where that number comes from. It doesn’t even divide evenly?! Just some arbitrary number apparently…

I’m not going to call them on it. I’m just moving on and chalking it up as a learning experience: I won’t be using their card in Canada ever again.

Adding insult to injury, the transaction fee didn’t even get me reward points.

Can You Dig It?

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