Two Prominent Banks in the Hot Seat

JPMorgan Chase and Capital One, two of the largest banks in the country, will soon have to pay out multi-million dollar settlements to their customers for unfair practices. This is an epic battle between David (the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau) and 2 goliath banks.

Settlement Terms for Consumers

JPMorgan Chase, during the 2008 and 2009 financial crisis, upped its customers’ minimum payments from 2 percent of their balances to 5 percent. Customers who sued the company allege that Chase raised the minimum payment because they wanted to collect fees from people who couldn’t meet their monthly obligation. To end a court battle that has raged for three years, Chase will pay a settlement of $100 million.

Capital One is paying back customers who complained that they were coerced into purchasing credit monitoring and payment protection services that were aggressively marketed by the bank. Capital One blames third-party call center workers and says that the agents deviated from the company’s sales script and became far too pushy. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau brought the charge against Capital One, and the settlement is a big win for a small agency that chose to go to battle with a major bank. Capital One will have to shell out $210 million.

Capital One will either credit customers’ current accounts or mail out checks to reimburse people who purchased their add-on services. JPMorgan Chase filed its settlement with the U.S. District Court of San Francisco on Monday but is still waiting for its settlement to be reviewed by a judge in August.

Lessons Consumers Should Learn

Credit card users can take a few lessons from both of these settlements that will benefit both their credit and their pocketbooks.

  1. Always make more than your minimum payment. If you’re making only your minimum payment on your account, then you will pay out more in interest than you ever owed on your credit card principal. You will also be unable to pay your credit card off for many years, and that debt will always be looming in the back of your mind. Try the “Debt Snowball” calculator to create a plan that will help you to eliminate your debts for good.
  2. Be smart about add-ons. Travis Plunkett, the legislative director of the Consumer Federation of America, refers to credit monitoring and payment protection services as “junk products.” Another prominent industry analyst calls the services “the worst add-on products you can buy.” Skip the credit monitoring services and utilize the free credit annual report service that entitles you to one free credit report yearly from the credit reporting agencies. Obtain one credit report from one agency every four months. That way, you can monitor your credit several times over the course of a year.
  3. Get comfortable with “no.” When it comes to your credit card debt, the buck stops with you. Even if a telemarketer is being aggressive, just say “no” to monthly charges that you can’t afford. Also, look over your expenses and decide which spending categories could benefit from the power of “no” so that you can make progress toward paying down your credit card debt.
  4. Count on the CFPB. The Capital One settlement shows that the CFPB has teeth and intends to use its power to protect consumers. If you have a dispute with your credit card company, then utilize their complaint procedure and put the Bureau to work for you.

Banks like Chase and Capital One offer many good services and have a lot of satisfied customers. Still, even with trusted and reputable institutions, consumers have to take charge of their own financial health.

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