Bank Robbery Growing In U.S.
Bank robbery has grown to become a huge problem in the United States but I am not talking about people robbing banks. I am talking about banks robbing people. Here are some tips on how you can avoid being ripped off by your bank.
Banks want you to believe you need a credit card. The fact is millions of people get by very well without one. Contrary to popular opinion you can rent a car or check into a motel without one. You can use a bank debit card for the same purchases that you would make with a credit card, but there is no excessive interest charged.
Read the Fine Print
Credit card offers will often tease you with very attractive interest rates. They may offer zero percent interest for six months, or a very low rate. They may even tout these as fixed rates, not variable rates. But look out for additional terms in the fine print. You may find that if you are late on just one payment they can increase your interest rate, even on the fixed rate agreement. Your zero percent interest may suddenly become 25 to 30 percent or more. This interest will apply to purchases you have already made as well as future purchases.
Look at Other Terms
In addition to the interest charged, check the fees for late payments, going over your credit limit and other fees. Keep in mind the late fee is often assessed in a period of under 30 days. You may find your payment is due in only a week or two from when you receive it. I have personally caught a credit card company charging me for a late fee they received on time and posted late. I sent the payment by certified mail so I had proof of the time of receipt...otherwise they would not have reversed the fee they charged. Another thing to look at is the minimum payment amount. There have been instances where this was barely enough to cover the interest so the consumer never actually reduces his balance.
Consider Credit Unions
A credit union is a non-profit organization. It is owned by you - the members. They offer most of the same services banks offer, but with lower interest rates on loans, and higher interest rates on your savings.
Try Paying With Cash
If you carry a little more cash you will find checkout at stores is quicker and easier. You know exactly what you are paying and there are no bank fees included. Some worry that carrying cash may subject you to robbery. One could argue on the other hand that keeping your money in the bank subjects you to having the bank rob you with unsuspected fees. In addition there is the very real threat that somebody might get hold of your banking information and you could become a victim of identity theft. It's very hard to steal someone's identity if they are doing business on a cash basis.
Express Your Concerns To Congress
Most states have usury laws which limit how much you can be charged in interest and late fees. Laws were passed in Congress in 1980 allowing national banks to ignore these laws, supposedly due to high inflation. Since we are not in a period of high inflation now, perhaps it's time for Congress to take another look at these laws. But they won't do it without your urging.
For more information about state usury laws, I recommend a website which I found:
Ron Coleman is a freelance cartoonist and writer living in Oakridge, Oregon. His work has appeared in hundreds of trade publications and newspapers, plus he continues to do work for clients on the internet. Today he is semi-retired. His work can be seen on his website: http://www.coleman-cartoons.com
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