After jacking up interest rates and changing repayment terms on its credit cards over the past year, JP Morgan Chase (JPM) wants to play nice for a while. Will anyone buy the idea that this company truly wants to help its customers pay down debt with its new Chase Blueprint program? Offering better interest rates and payment terms would help a lot more.
The program, which the bank plans to unveil Tuesday, will allow customers to designate certain categories of items, such as food, that they plan to pay off in full each month. Consumers will be given a grace period before interest charges accrue on those purchases, as long as they pay those portions of their bill in full. Interest charges will continue to accrue on other charges not in their designated categories.
Personally, I think this is a gimmick that will get consumers deeper into debt. Consumers are making a better choice for items they intend to pay off quickly -- debit cards. In fact, studies show credit card use is dwindling while debit card use is rising. Credit card companies are losing transaction fees to debit card providers. They need to find a way to get them back. Chase Blueprint's new features will enable them to do just that if consumers buy into the program.
Chase Blueprint does offer consumers some good things. For those who are paying down significant debt, Chase has developed tools to help. For example, Chase's financial management tools will help consumers calculate the interest they can save by paying more than the minimum each month. You can take a look at the advice and planning section of Chase's website to get a sampling of the financial management tools being offered. Bill Wallace, president of card services for JP Morgan Chase told Bloomberg that the industry has not done a good job of explaining interest expenses to consumers. You think?
Now that the company has jacked up interest rates on its millions of cardholders over the past year, pushing many to the point where they could no longer afford to make their payments, it's not surprising they're trying to figure out how they can help them pay their bills. But in addition to rapid interest rate increases, JP Morgan Chase also just raised its monthly minimum payment requirement from two percent of the outstanding bill to five percent of the outstanding bill, throwing even more cardholders over the edge. Do they really think a few money management tools are going to give their customers any significant relief?
Lita Epstein has written more than 25 books, including The Complete Idiot's Guide to Improving Your Credit Score.
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