No, not from my job -- though I could understand if my recent posts might have led some of my readers to conclude that. I think a summer break will put things right for a while on that score. No, I'm talking about walking away from a fifteen-year relationship. With a credit card.
Tenured Radical has a nice post up about graduation and debt. And I realize that I've never really talked much about my own debt. I think I'd like to write a longer post on this someday, but right now, I just want to talk about getting out of one financial relationship that has become particularly abusive.
Last night, I opened a backlog of mail. One of these was an "account update" from Really Evil Bank.** REB was, I think, fourth in a line of banks that bought my credit card account from the original folks I carefully selected back in 1997. That's right: I've had this account in good standing for almost 15 years now. And last night, I read that they've just changed the rules: if I make a single late payment, ever, my interest rate goes up to 29.99%, indefinitely.
You read that right: fifteen-year credit history with this card, credit rating of 750, permanent address and professional job of 8 years' standing, but I can still be charged 30% if, in the future, I slip up once. And you know what I realized? Abusive (but legal -- legal, I tell you!) practices like this only exist because the people perpetrating them know we will put up with them.
The only way this can change is if I get out from under them. Up until now, I've needed this company more than they need me. They've given me a humungous credit line, and I've done just what their analysts likely predicted I would: I've used it. This credit card has paid for everything from hospital bills to groceries, not to mention god only knows how many self-financed professional conferences and overseas research trips. I've established a ridiculously good payment history with them. Up until now, though, I've been stuck with whatever they dish out (refusal to negotiate a lower interest rate? 50-cent surcharge for months when I don't carry a balance?) because I've been carrying a debt with them so high that I couldn't pay them off and walk away. But through various machinations, I'm now perilously close to having this credit card paid off for the first time in over ten years. And when that happens, I'm canceling the thing. I'm done with REB, one way or the other, by September 1. Maybe sooner.
Summary: The only way not to lose here is not to play. Come September 1, I'm out. See if I don't.
**Unnamed here, but you know the big giant one whose mortgage division you keep hearing about in the news, where they deliberately jerk around people trying to use the law to refinance so they don't lose their homes? Yep, those guys are the current holders of my credit card, and I'm upset that I'm giving them even one dime of my money.