Credit card datapoint of the day

By Felix Salmon
June 23, 2009
The thing to pay attention to here are the 95% confidence intervals as much as the red and blue lines. ... And as a result, banks can ratchet up those penalty APRs to eye-watering levels, and make lots of extra money, without worrying about losing market share. " data-share-img="" data-share="twitter,facebook,linkedin,reddit,google" data-share-count="true">

Barbara Kiviat pulls this chart from a paper by Ryan Bubb and Alex Kaufman, who have an op-ed in today’s NYT about credit cards. It basically makes the same point, in empirical and visual form, that Mike at Rortybomb made in a more theoretical and mathematical form last month.

credicards.jpg

The thing to pay attention to here are the 95% confidence intervals as much as the red and blue lines. What they show is that the lowest bank penalty rates are vastly, and needlessly, higher than the highest credit-union penalty rates. People choose credit cards based on which one has the lowest introductory APR, or sometimes based on which one has the lowest purchase APR. They don’t (although they should) choose a card based on which one has the lowest penalty APR. And as a result, banks can ratchet up those penalty APRs to eye-watering levels, and make lots of extra money, without worrying about losing market share.

Which is yet another reason why the Consumer Financial Protection Agency is an idea whose time has long since come.

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Comments
5 comments so far

This marks the second occasion today that I\’ve seen a line chart that would be much more readable as a bar chart, or better yet, a table.

Rule of Thumb: If the x-axis is a category (like, say, gender) as opposed to something quantifiable (like, say, time), do not use a line chart. [Note: There\'s good reason to hate line charts even for quantifiable variables because all they do is promote the silly notion that linear interpolation of the data is appropriate, which it almost always isn\'t... and certainly never is the case with categories!]

Of course the banks are going to use any excuse possible to charge higher than justifiable interest rates on credit cards, they need that revenue to offset the losses from the incompetent mistakes they make. And then they need to pay execs huge bonuses, because it’s hard to find people who are sociopathic enough to charge usurious rates without caring about how their unsustainable business model will ultimately fail, long after they have left the bank, bonuses intact.

It makes me re-think the idea that the country couldn’t have afforded to let the big banks fail. How much more discomfort and dislocation would have been caused than we are currently experiencing if the equity of BofA, Citi, and all of those other mismanaged banks would have been erased?

Posted by KenG | Report as abusive

“They don’t (although they should) choose a card based on which one has the lowest penalty APR. And as a result, banks can ratchet up those penalty APRs to eye-watering levels, and make lots of extra money, without worrying about losing market share.”

Not like the terms ever stay the same. They’ll ratchet up the penalty APRs no matter what terms they sell you on at the start.

Posted by Jon H | Report as abusive

Possessing or using a credit card in the US should be a privilege, not a right. Exercise a lot more caution in the future…because first and foremost bankers are NOT your friend.

Bankers do not lend lest they earn a profit. I don’t care who the credit is, good or bad, that is always rule # 1. And like ‘Fight Club’ rule # 2 is same as # 1.

Wahh, I hate banks. Then don’t use the flipping cards, or open a credit union acct and you won’t get gouged in the eye with fees.

Posted by Griff | Report as abusive

Really? Everyone I know chooses cards solely based on the rewards they offer. You know why? BECAUSE WE PAY OUR FUCKING BILLS! I know, it’s a novel concept.

Posted by James | Report as abusive
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