There's been a fair amount of talk about things people could do to protest against the credit card companies.
Consumer protests can be problematic, because they often require a massive critical mass to make any difference whatsoever. But, if they're fun in the meantime, who cares?
First, don't confuse "protesting" with "shooting yourself in the foot". Protesting the credit card companies by refusing to pay your credit card bill kind of... misses the point. You want to cost them money, not make them money.
So, here are some ideas and inspiration materials:
- Does anyone really check the signatures on credit card receipts? According to Zug, there's a lot of opportunity for mischief here. Go check it out, it's hilarious. They've got a sequel here. Doesn't seem like anything seriously bad can happen if you replace your signature with an anti-Congress screed.
- Lots of credit card applications have "postage paid" envelopes on them. I've seen a lot of suggestions to just stuff the envelopes with the rest of the mailing material (or with heavier materials) and drop them off in the mail.
- Or, you can simply forward the applications, or your bills, or your old credit cards (minus sensitive information) to your local Yea-voting congresscritter. Everyone could do it on one day. Back in college, I was part of a group that decided to all anonymously mail coconuts to David Letterman on the same day from different parts of the nation. Over 100, I think. (What can I say... there's a time and a place for everything, and it's called college.) I think we got mentioned on the top ten list, so, uh, that means it works!
Now, the legality of stuff like that is probably questionable. If you really want to hurt the credit card companies, you really just have to do things that are a bit more boring.
- If you're at a college, tear down any credit card marketing materials you see that are posted on bulletin boards or at other public places.
- Cancel/close almost all your credit cards. If you want to keep one for emergency purposes, freeze it in a block of ice in your freezer. If you want to use it, you have to wait for the ice to melt - no more impulse buying.
- Pay your balance every month. The credit industry calls these people "freeloaders". They hate them. Make them hate you.
Incidentally, you don't want to throw your credit cards away entirely. I got myself out of a lot of debt a few years ago - and had stellar credit because of all that debt. I spent two years on debit cards, and then I promptly almost had my mortgage declined for "lack of recent credit history". I had to accept a higher interest rate. Since then I've forced myself to use a credit card sparingly, but I just had a refi declined for the same reason - lack of enough credit history. It's completely backwards.
By the way, the brief rules of debt management everyone should know, step-by-step:
- Renegotiate your credit card interest rates. Demand lower rates, claim a competitor is offering the lower rate (even if they aren't).
- Fund the company-matched portion of your 401k first. It's free money.
- Pay minimum payments on all credit card bills except for highest-rate bill.
- Fund rest of 401k or IRA if possible
- Pay maximum amount you can to your highest-rate credit card bill.
- When paid off, transfer same amount of money to your next-highest-rate bill.
I would usually keep student loans fairly low priority in the chain because you can ask for allowances on them if you get in financial trouble.
Posted by tunesmith at March 21, 2005 12:46 PM
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