Posts Tagged ‘bank’

Attorney Jonathan Stein has blogged about Capitol One’s raising the credit card interest rates of 70-75% of its customers. Because …. you know the answer: It Can.



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JP Morgan Chase has decided not to discriminate against small business owners by tripling their commercial interest rates. Now consumers can share the wealth, too — with Chase, of course. USA Today reported on 2/8/2008 that Chase has added a $10 a MONTH fee to low-rate credit card accounts. Yep: $120 a year. Not only that, the fee is added to the card balance, which means it bears interest.

I believe we’ve found a new circle of Hell!

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Not long after my post railing against Chase raising its small business interest rates, the name of the bank took on a different and unintended personal meaning. A Friday mail delivery included a large check drawn on a Chase account in another state. To expedite access to the funds, I decided to deposit it into my Chase checking account rather than the one at a more convenient local bank. I delayed my trip to the bank looking for current deposit slips and finally abandoned that quest with the idea that I’d fill out a blank slip at the nearest branch, on the other side of town about 15 minutes away. Three police cars with lights flashing passed me on the highway; two sped ahead while one, curiously, took the crossover and headed back south. When I pulled off the highway, I saw another police car outside the Chase branch. And another. And one in the grocery store parking lot across the street. And a rescue squad van. Seven marked and unmarked cars in all; I counted. Still, I was on a mission, so I pulled around the bank of the bank, parked and got out. “May I help you?” a man asked, who was pulling police line tape around the perimeter of the building. “I was going in to make a deposit,” I said, every molecule of my German heritage fixated on the goal. “The bank is closed,” he said.

I drove back to my side of town and made a deposit in person at the local bank. I described the scene to the tellers. “Maybe someone had a heart attack,” one said. “Maybe someone died,” said another.

I left a message for my friend Rex, decoder of so much in this existence, and reminded him of the What Was That? service we’d craved years ago: a phone number you could call and ask “What was that?” and someone would explain what that was, whatever that was.

Having worked in a bank himself, Rex knew exactly What That Was: a robbery. Huh? In THIS tiny, semi-rural town? Look for details on the news, he urged. Yeah, right, I said. One local news station in the state and it wasn’t likely to cover this. By late evening the Need to Know — and the visceral reaction from understanding how narrowly I’d missed this — drove Rex to phone me back in search of details. I hadn’t bothered to look online; since I was driving during our call, he searched The New Jersey Star-Ledger and Daily Record sites. Yep: robbery.

Armed robbery.

Armed robbery by a man who walked into the bank wielding a gun. (Well, yielding a gun is what the Star-Ledger actually said.) Right about when my mail delivery arrived. If I hadn’t poked around looking for deposit slips, I would have walked into his little pistol party.

Those cop cars that passed me were on their way to the bank. The one that took the turnaround and headed south was entering a fray that would cross two counties and involve some 30 police vehicles (according to the purported eyewitnesses who posted comments on the Star-Ledger site). The suspect made it to East Orange, some 40 minutes away, where he exited the freeway and drove back on, up the exit ramp, right into oncoming traffic. After the eventual collision he jumped out and ran, finally to be caught on foot.

Other fun fact: He’d scoped out the bank from a table at the Jefferson Diner (as seen on the Food Network) next door. Which I’d visited for the first time the day before. The difference being that I had eggs, while he had a cheese sandwich and a bowl of soup. And that I was on a different end of a robbery.

My local news cynicism was borne out the next morning. The print edition of The Star-Ledger reported four crime stories in my county. None was the bank robbery. The most column inches went to what? A house fire in which a cat died.

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I received notice from JP Morgan Chase yesterday that it’s tripling the annual percentage rate on my business line of credit. The hike was “in response to market conditions and to maintain profitability on your account.”

A NY Times report shows that JP Morgan Chase’s approved share of the first stimulus package is $25,000 million (see http://projects.nytimes.com/creditcrisis/recipients/table). And the purpose of that package was to do what again? Stimulate the economy by increasing the availability of credit? What Chase is doing is the opposite: discouraging small business borrowers from using their commercial lines of credit.

I thought Congress might like to know what Chase is doing with its stimulus package and have written to the relevant heads of the Senate and House committees. I encourage you to do the same if you, too, get a rate hike that has nothing to do with your behavior or credit. To make it easier, here are addresses:

Senator Max Baucus
Chairman, Senate Committee on Finance
511 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510

Senator Chuck Grassley
Ranking Member, Senate Committee on Finance
135 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510

Representative Barney Frank
Chairman, House Financial Services Committee
2252 Rayburn Building
Washington, DC 20515

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I got an unexpected vacation from the universe of BigMortgage (the subject of my December 20 post). It came in a call from an officer at my small local bank, which has branches in only a few counties in northern NJ. He’d tagged my account to follow up on an overdraft protection application I’d made and, when it hadn’t attached to my account on the day he expected, he’d looked into it. He was calling to tell me that my original application was one of the documents that had gone missing during a recent move in the administrative office. He actually said the words “I apologize,” on behalf of himself and the bank, and asked me to come in and sign a replacement original.

A financial institution not only owning up to a document loss, but alerting me to it, apologizing for it and taking immediate action to rectify it? I knew what I had to do.

When I appeared in the lobby, he recognized me by the sound of my voice. The new document took very little time. I said how he’d handled this was an example of why it’s important to do business with a local bank. He started a vague spiel on the bank’s commitment to being local, so I brought my appreciation into something more specific. First I told him a client was being so mistreated by BigMortgage that we’d decided local banks are the only way to go for a mortgage, even if it costs a little more. Then I said, “I hope you’re allowed to accept this” and handed him a small bag of homemade buttercrunch (like a Heath Bar) I’d tucked into my purse for exactly this purpose.

I felt a huge wave of energy come across the desk, as if he wanted to fling himself at me in a huge, long hug. Which was just what I felt like doing.

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