Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Good news: Senate passes credit card reform. Bad news: All credit card holders must wear loaded guns

New credit card bill passed 90-5 today in the U.S. Senate. It includes some much-needed restrictions on credit card companies.

Anne Flaherty reports this in an AP story:

If enacted into law as expected, the credit card industry would have nine months to change the way it does business: Lenders would have to post their credit card agreements on the Internet and let customers pay their bills online or by phone without an added fee. They'd also have to give consumers a chance to spare themselves from over-the-limit fees and provide 45 days notice and an explanation before interest rates are increased. Some of these changes are already on track to take effect in July 2010, under new rules being imposed by the Federal Reserve. But the Senate bill would put the changes into law and go further in restricting the types of bank fees and who can get a card. For example, the Senate bill requires those under 21 who seek a credit card to prove first that they can repay the money or that a parent or guardian is willing to pay off their debt if they default.... Under the bill, a cardholder would have to opt to be allowed to go over a credit limit. If customers don't agree and the bank authorizes a charge that would push them over their limit, the lender couldn't levy an over-limit fee. Another boon for consumers is limiting a practice known as "universal default," when a lender sharply increases a cardholder's interest rate on an existing balance because the customer is late paying that bill or other, unrelated bills. Under the new legislation, a customer would have to be more than 60 days behind on a payment before seeing a rate increase on an existing balance. Even then, the credit card company would be required to restore the previous, lower rate after six months if the cardholder pays the minimum balance on time.

This is good news for all of us who've been gouged by credit card companies, which probably includes 99.9 percent of all Americans.

One odd things about the bill, though. A provision was added at the last minute that allows people to carry loaded guns in national parks and wildlife refuges. The purpose of the amendment listed in the U.S. Senate's official record is this: "To protect innocent Americans from violent crime in national parks and refuges." Oklahoma Republican Sen. Tom Coburn proposed the gun measure as an amendment and it passed, 67-29.

What does this have to do with credit card companies? Some of us, even peaceniks, have been driven apoplectic by the credit card companies and their obscure rules. I do admit that it's a far cry from apoplexy to gunplay, but the latter has been contemplated.

So, if all this becomes law, expect to see lots of gun-toting westerners this summer in Yellowstone and Grand Teton and Devils Tower and Fossil Butte and Mount Rushmore and Dinosaur N.M. and Rocky Mountain N.P. and the wildlife refuge near you. A perfect time for threats of random gunplay in parks which have been reporting a downturn in visitors by Internet-absorbed Americans and by those strapped for cash by the economic downturn.

While this "gun-toting act" could backfire, it might add to the tourism numbers. Let's face it, tourists, especially the foreign variety, have become jaded by fake Old West gun fights in places such as Jackson and Cheyenne. They are looking for a more genuine experience. So what could be better than a real gunfight breaking out amongst two gun-toting citizens jockeying over the same RV hook-up? Better yet, two fellows decked out in Wranglers, Tony Lamas and Glocks get into a scrape over a woman at the Yellowstone Lake Lodge. They're told to take it outside and they do, much to the delight of a busload of tourists from Kyoto. They get it all on film and it's on YouTube within seconds.

That may be fine for tourists from overseas. For me, this makes a staycation look better and better.

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