In a frankly depressing but undoubtedly realistic column this morning titled “National Addiction to Easy Credit Remains Consumers’ Downfall“, Michelle Singletary, the Washington Post’s personal finance columnist, writes that the credit card reforms being put into regulation by the Federal Reserve and potentially being accelerated/enhanced by Congressional action sometime soon won’t deal with the root cause of the problem of credit card debt.
She regrets that even after these reforms are in place that “people will still be able to swipe their way into massive debt in seconds — and it’s that ease of borrowing that has produced hundreds of thousands of credit addicts.” Some of us who spent years building the current card-based payments systems to be “faster than cash” might say that was the whole point of doing so wasn’t necessarily to help build credit card receivables but, rather, to help merchants and consumers quickly transact!
Singletary says what she’d really like to see is “point-of-sale transparency” – displaying right on the POS terminal back to the cardholder what their current credit card account balance is and explicitly getting their approval to add to it with the current purchase. Of course, the cost to implement such an approach would prohibit its adoption – and merchants certainly are much more interested in just getting the sale vs. helping consumers do a better job of credit management!
Our earlier post about the increasing use of debit cards comes close – at least if banks were to in fact enforce limits and not use them to as another source of overdraft fees. What do you think?