'Dark side' of billing statements encourages increased debt

Published: Wednesday, Jan. 30 2013 10:25 a.m. MST

Looking at a billing statement can make it harder to get out of debt, because statements are full of traps, an article says.

Shutterstock

Enlarge photo»

Looking at a billing statement can make it harder to get out of debt, according to an article by Wise Bread.

Your billing statement is full of traps, Wise Bread says. That website offers three things to watch out for as you view your latest statement:

Minimum payment

The minimum payment is as little as 2 percent of the total balance. Paying only the minimum causes you to pay more in the long run. The Credit CARD Act of 2009 requires companies to show how long a debt will take to be paid off if only the minimum is paid each time.

Banks use a tactic called anchoring, Wise Bread says. Individuals are influenced by the first piece of information they are offered. When a statement comes, the lower offer appears first, making it more likely for customers pay less than the full amount.

Credit available

Statements show how much credit you can still use. This effect, called framing, makes consumers focus on how much they have left that they didn’t use, rather than focusing on how much they owe, Wise Bread points out. Knowing how much is available also lowers rational thinking in spending purchases.

Convenience checks

This is not just like wiping a credit card. The lender treats these as cash advances, which have higher interest rates. Sometimes the rates are 20 percent or higher, according to Wise Bread. Another 3- to 4-percent fee is charged for writing one of these checks.

“When you receive these checks in the mail, shred them immediately and back away slowly,” said Emily Guy Birken, in her article for Wise Bread. “You don't want to be seduced by the power of the Dark Side.”

Unlike a credit card, there is no interest-free grace period. The full purpose of these checks for lenders is to take advantage of laziness, since it’s easier to write these checks than to order more personal checks when they run out, Wise Bread says.

EMAIL: alovell@deseretnews.com

Get The Deseret News Everywhere

Subscribe

Mobile

RSS