Monday, March 10, 2008

CREDIT CARDS | Fast-Food Finance?

Credit cards–addictive and fattening?
March 10, 2008–Addiction is socially taboo but creates a reliable revenue stream. A fund that invests only in companies that profit from addictions (alcohol, cigarettes, gambling and arms manufacture) has outperformed the market so far by four to one.

Fast-food companies have come under a cloud as critics charge that their products are addictive because of their high sugar, salt and fat content, not to mention scientifically perfected artificial tastes.

An "epidemic" of obesity shown by comparisons between 1980 and 2004–a doubling of obesity rates among adults and tripling among children–has been linked to the growth of fast-food merchants.

Now AdAge today has an article Lenders Labeled New Marketing Villains that describes credit-card debt as the new obesity. Just as fast-food outlets sell junk food, banks promoting credit cards are being viewed as pushing Americans into high credit balances, then imposing penalty interest rates and fees on their addicted borrowers.

The shoe seems to fit. Like many addictions, consumer debt is a codependency because banks have become addicted to the easy revenue just as much as consumers are addicted to the cards. Now that the mortgage market is falling on hard times, some worry that banks are seeking to recoup their mortgage losses by hiking fees and rates for consumer debt.

All of which creates sentiments among the public that support a Credit Cardholders Bill of Rights.