What's the least manipulative stable credit card company?
December 7, 2006 10:27 AM   Subscribe

What's the least manipulative stable credit card company?

I had an Amnesty International VISA - a tiny percentage of the purchases were donated to Amnesty. Good card, good customer service, they didn't do anything creepy. Then one day POOF, it's replaced with a Citibank Visa, an 8 day window to pay the bill every month, and constant examples of predatory practices. This is the 3rd time I've had a descent credit card bought out by an ultra-manipulative Citibank or Chase. Are there any non-creepy, stable credit cards to be had? BTW - I have very good credit.
posted by alizarin to Work & Money (33 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
American Express is one. (They offer credit cards with revolving balances now.)

Sadly, I can't think of any VISA or MasterCards that aren't Citibank, Chase, Capital One or Bank of America. I'm like you—every good card I've had turned into hell.

Capital One is now the least sleazy MC/V card I have.
posted by infinitewindow at 10:54 AM on December 7, 2006

Many people have problems with Discover, as they're not as widley accepted as Visa or Mastercard.

However, they've been nothing but peaches and cream to me for the last 6 years. They hooked me in college and while I rued the day I picked up any form of plastic for a while, they're the only ones who haven't done anything so ridiculous that I canceled the card.

I've heard great things about AmEx, though - both through reviews and the fact that their users tend to be almost as veracious and fevered as most Apple fans. I'd try them as well.
posted by plaidrabbit at 11:03 AM on December 7, 2006

I had your experience with MBNA. There rules were so weird and turnaround time for bill payment was very low. So I transferred it to American Express. It is the very least troublesome for me.
posted by JayRwv at 11:04 AM on December 7, 2006

If you have a US military connection, USAA. (See their eligibility page.)

I had thought their banking services were available to the general public. Apparently they recently changed that policy to the stricter requirements always enforced by their insurance divisions.
posted by expialidocious at 11:05 AM on December 7, 2006

The downside to American Express is that there are many businesses that don't accept them. But Costco does...heheh
posted by JayRwv at 11:06 AM on December 7, 2006

Can you elaborate on what you consider "manipulative," or "predatory practices"?

I have Chase and American Express. I'm not crazy about Chase, and I've never had a problem with American Express. You mentioned something about an "8-day window to pay the bill" with Citibank. I've never heard of that. Both Chase and American Express will accept as many checks as I choose to send, whenever I choose to send them; as long as I mail an amount equal to each month's minimum payment before that month's payment deadline, no fees apply.
posted by cribcage at 11:07 AM on December 7, 2006

I recommend the classic green AMEX card. It offers all kinds of protections, and don't even let you carry a balance. Plus, AMEX has excellent customer service.
posted by Afroblanco at 11:20 AM on December 7, 2006

I'll second Discover. I find it works in about 95% of the places I shop, and their customer service is delightfully pleasent and helpful. I've had my Discover card for maybe three years now (hooked up in college, like plaidrabbit), and I've never had a problem with them. Plus, their online bill payment system is great. Also, last I heard, Discover was the only card Sams Club accepted, but's been a while since I shopped at a Sams.
posted by gc at 11:21 AM on December 7, 2006

I've had great experiences with a Visa gold from U.S. Bank for many years now. Low interest rate, reasonable rules and regulations, etc.

In general, it seems like the smaller the bank, the less nonsense, though I think your credit rating will also play a big role on what you're able to get.

DebtSmart.com has a list of recommended credit cards. You might try looking there.
posted by CMichaelCook at 11:33 AM on December 7, 2006

Join a credit union and get a credit card there. Usually it's going to be very local and they're not going to be bought by Citibank et al.

I've had nothing but good experiences with my credit union in general and with credit cards from them in particular. I can pay online whenever and it's deducted immediately from my savings/checking.
posted by epersonae at 11:39 AM on December 7, 2006 [1 favorite]

Second the credit union suggestion. Credit unions require that you meet their criteria for membership, but many have criteria that can be met by anyone. My credit union requires membership in a community development organization that anyone can join (and that is not eveil, as far as I can tell). My rates are very low for a credit card.
posted by al_fresco at 11:50 AM on December 7, 2006

Seconding USAA if you're eligible.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:52 AM on December 7, 2006

American Express is one.

I would say avoid Amex.

I've a couple of Amex cards but I will never again rely on them as a primary card. I'd had a gold charge for a few years. One day I tried to buy a book in a shop and got declined. Within 10 minutes I got a call to my cell in a parking lot telling me my card was under "financial review" and that I had 7 days to send Amex three years of bank statements, tax forms, and pay slips. I was on my first day of vacation so this was not going to happen.

When I got back I'd had time to think about it some more and wrote to the company telling them my financial records were a matter between me and my accountant. I asked to cancel my cards. Amex cancelled the cards, but marked them as "closed by issuer", which lowered my credit score for a few years. I found that a most unscrupulous behaviour.

Additionally, one issue with Amex "no set limit" cards is that they report your highest balance as your credit limit. Therefore, were youalways to spend aound the same amount per month, you would tend to show at >90% utilisation (fraction of available credit in use), which will also lower your score.

Capital One also reports the high balance as your credit limit, thus potentially lowering your score. That's pretty sleazy.

A credit card from a reasonably large credit union is a good compromise for stability. If it's community based then there's little liklihood of it being bought out.
posted by meehawl at 12:00 PM on December 7, 2006

My Amex experience was similar to the one described above by meehawl.

I don't like them.
posted by aramaic at 12:18 PM on December 7, 2006

I third USAA.

Be careful with AmEx - my boss has one, and the due date for payment is awfully soon after the statement is received, like 10 days.

Lots of cards offer great deals for switching to them - it could be that ANY new card is better than staying with your old card.
Also, try calling them to get the 'pay window' increased; explain that you're thinking of going with a different card, but if they can extend the window, you would stay with them.
posted by Sprout the Vulgarian at 12:19 PM on December 7, 2006

I nth USAA, if you're eligible (and the change in their banking eligibility requirements is news to me--that must be recent). They have amazing customer service, and excellent credit card policies.
posted by paleography at 12:26 PM on December 7, 2006

Wachovia and Chase (which bought Bank One) have both been great for me -- super low interest "for the life of the loan" through convenience checks (from 2.9 percent to 4.9 percent), and I transferred all of my balances to those two cards (you do have to pay a transfer fee, but it ends up being worth the cost if you have higher-interest balances). I put them on auto-pay, and I've had excellent customer service.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 1:23 PM on December 7, 2006

My bank offers credit cards.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 2:17 PM on December 7, 2006 [1 favorite]

Won't use Amex. Bad deal for businesses and hard to deal with.

I'm about to cancel BOA Visa, too. No other reason but I resent their policies... changing significant pieces of our 'agreement' unilaterally. Screw that. I pay off my balances every month, too.

I've also had BOA shut my card down during a long marathon trip where I travelled from NC to Florida late at night, charging all along the way. Severall other times, they've burped because of 'suspicious' charges, all of which were legit. Next month, I start looking for a better deal somewhere else.
posted by FauxScot at 2:17 PM on December 7, 2006

Count me again for USAA. The eligibility requirements (1 year from when you leave a U.S. uniformed service, I think) are too bad. Although if you had a parent who was in, I think you can still be an "Associate Member" (may require that they have done business with USAA). After you've established a good payment record, they drop your minimum payment to $0, so there's no penalty if you miss a payment one time. Their car insurance is also great.

I've had an OK experience with American Express, but I've never run a balance and I pay every bill the day it arrives in full. Every year when they try and charge me an exorbitant annual fee, I call up and threaten to cancel and they drop it by 50 or 100%.
posted by Kadin2048 at 2:17 PM on December 7, 2006

I have to say the credit union is definately the way to go.
posted by Monkey0nCrack at 2:28 PM on December 7, 2006

They're all trash, save credit unions, and even most of those aren't very good either.

Don't think I'm being flippant, I'm just telling it how it is.

That said, Amex has been good enough to me (0% on purchases for 15 months), as have BoA (0% on purchases and balance transfers for a year) (although I have no personal experience with MBNA, who now runs the BoA card operations) and Citibank (0% on BTs for a year on one card, 5% and 6% back on certain purchases on another couple).

Capital One used to be decent, in that they didn't charge a fee for foreign currency transactions, but that went away last month. They like to pull a hard inquiry from each bureau when you apply, however, so they're not really a good option.

The best thing you can do for yourself is keep your options open, that way if one company decides to screw you, you can transfer the balance elsewhere. Amex, for example, is an excellent issuer (they do, in fact, report the credit line on their credit products, but not the charge cards) unless they decide to give you the old anal probe (aka financial review). If you have plenty of available credit on other cards, it doesn't matter if they do get a bug in their rear, you can just take advantage of some other company's deal.

Discover is a pain in the butt, though. If they decide to ratejack you, as they did my g/f, you'll have to fill out a form and take a hard inquiry to get it reduced. Other issuers don't require such rigamarole, just call and ask and find out immediately, no inquiry required.

Chase is known widely for their quick trigger when it comes to jacking up your interest rates, but again, if you have other places to stash the balance in the event they decide one day to make your life difficult, you can transfer it away with no problems.

Creditboards and the Card Perks forum have lots of useful information.

Basically, do business with everyone so that you have a drop back position no matter what any of them do to you, and do your bill reading/paying online, and avoid the small window between the time the paper bill arrives and the payment is due. There aren't many decent cards out there that have less than a 20 day grace period (meaning your due date is at least 20 days after the statement closing date)

Oh, and watch out for the new exorbitant balance transfer fees, hardly anybody has no fee balance transfers at below prime rates anymore.
posted by wierdo at 2:56 PM on December 7, 2006

If your family or you are in the military, USAA for EVERYTHING.
posted by jesirose at 4:47 PM on December 7, 2006

USAA is pretty great.
posted by Tacos Are Pretty Great at 5:57 PM on December 7, 2006

I had a terrible experience with Discover customer service when I closed my account. Their customer retention script is very heavy-handed, to the point where the customer service rep actually yelled at me for wanting to cancel my card and hung up on me. Wouldn't recommend it.
posted by bobot at 8:04 PM on December 7, 2006

For business, my Chase Visa has been excellent.

For personal, my Citicard Mastercard has been the best. WaMu/Providian is not too bad either. Citicard upgraded me to Diamond from Platinum after a year of service without me requesting it.

As with any credit card, call the support # and get your rate lowered by mentioning competitive offers - that junk mail is good for something!
posted by criticman at 8:07 PM on December 7, 2006

Capital One used to be decent, in that they didn't charge a fee for foreign currency transactions
What? No. I was about to get a card with them for that reason alone. Is there anyone else that doesn't charge (not meaning to hijack...)?
posted by NailsTheCat at 8:18 PM on December 7, 2006

infinitewindow: "Capital One is now the least sleazy MC/V card I have."
That's amazing, considering how they lend mostly to people to subprime credit, report your high balance as your limit, and automatically enroll you in "credit protection", with a fee, and make you call them to stop it. Also, they never raise your credit limit.

gc: "Also, last I heard, Discover was the only card Sams Club accepted, but's been a while since I shopped at a Sams."
I was just in Sam's yesterday. They had big signs up saying they now accept Mastercard.
posted by Mr. Gunn at 9:25 PM on December 7, 2006

Capital One used to be decent, in that they didn't charge a fee for foreign currency transactions, but that went away last month.

Yeah, I would really like a citation for that, too, wierdo. According to the current disclosures for the card I have, there is no foreign transaction fee.

I found vague mention of a change in this policy in the comments of this blog post, which mentioned flyertalk and fatwallet threads. I searched both, and all I found was one guy here saying it has changed. If you have any better links, I'd appreciate them.
posted by whatnotever at 7:06 AM on December 8, 2006

Mr. Gunn, I have great credit, other cards I don't use who report my correct limit, have never had their credit protection, and have had my credit limit raised twice. My rates are lower and my grace period higher. Capital One has treated me very well compared to MBNA and Citibank.
posted by infinitewindow at 9:57 AM on December 8, 2006

That's an interesting data point. If you don't mind sharing, I'd like to know which of their cards do you have, if it's business or personal, what you use it for mostly and your approximate limit. The reason I'm asking is here.
posted by Mr. Gunn at 7:19 AM on December 9, 2006

Another solution, if you want to go this route, could be to gradually wean yourself from credit cards... If one of the things you care about with credit cards is rewards such as cash back or airline miles, there are now debit cards with equivalent perks.
posted by allterrainbrain at 4:28 AM on December 10, 2006

Credit union all the way. My only issue with the 2 that I'm a member of is the very limited number of ATM's. One of them, Shell, does allow me to use Capital One ATM's at no charge, but deposits are still pretty inconvenient.

I have mostly negative opinions of Capital One, but we have 3 cards with them. They constantly fill my mailbox with trash, won't stop sending me paper bills even though I get my statements electronically, and I never have a positive experience with their customer service. We left our bank when CapOne bought them, and went to a Shell credit union for my wife.

As far as CapOne not raising your limit, that depends on the card. My card is not eligible for credit limit increases, but one of my wifes' has been increased twice.

allterrainbrain: Not using credit cards will hurt your credit score, as debit cards aren't reported to the credit bureaus at all.
posted by thir13en at 11:52 AM on December 20, 2006

« Older What kind of water do my plants want?   |   Getting back into the rotation of things Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.