The Card Game

Monday, November 23, 2009

Frontline correspondent Lowell Bergman investigates the future of the massive consumer loan industry and its impact on a fragile national economy. In "The Card Game," a joint project with the New York Times, Bergman talk to industry insiders, lobbyists, politicians and consumer advocates as they square off over attempts to reform the way the industry has done business for decades. "The Card Game" airs Tuesday, November 24, at 9:00 pm on PBS.


Lowell Bergman

Comments [15]

J.C. from Minneapolis

Re: Comment #9

You are exactly right.

I didn't realize that credit card transactions fees were so lucrative for the banks and so detrimental to small business until I moved to Europe and discovered the card with the PIN number. Since I thought using a PIN number at the store was safer than relying on a signature check (which many places don't even bother with anymore--shockingly), I asked my bank in the U.S. for that capability.

They refused.

They first told me it wasn't possible, but after a few angry emails from me, I got what I wanted, so I now have a card that uses a PIN number.

The reason for their foot dragging was that they get less money from the business when you use a PIN card rather than swipe the card as a credit card and sign the receipt.

The games banks play are unbelievable.

Nov. 23 2009 05:08 PM
Michael from Manhattan

From an economic standpoint. The issuance of credit cards allows banks to issue "currency " that is not much regulated and as we haev found out is not readily accounted for. If the Dollar is backed up by the US Gov and the US economy. MY Master card is backed up by my bank and me. If I cant pay and my bank goe sunder then all those thousands of imaginary dollars that was authorized by my bank in the form of a credit line vanish, someone is crying that they need to get paid and the Gov has to step in after the fact and sort it out anyway. Lets cut out the middle men, and put all the resources that go into this ridiculous Rube Goldberg solution that makes very few people rich and a LOT poor into something more valuable.

Nov. 23 2009 02:11 PM
Ruth Mullen

We need federal usury laws to stop the sky's-the-limit interest rate hikes as credit card companies easily dodge state laws by setting up in states without such laws...Citibank located in South Dakota? yeah right. People need to wake up and demand this of their legislators.

Nov. 23 2009 02:09 PM
Michael from Manhattan

Why cant the government create a semi private corporation that like medicaid, and food stamps, or teh post office, allows us to bank, and handle our transactions (debts public and private) , after all that is what the Department of the Tresurey does with the issuance of currency. The IRS has the police state powers to intervene in what ever we are doing any way, so we would not really be under any more under scrutiny than we already are. All the ways we transact now wil turn any info they have on us in the most minute detail over to the Gov when ever requested anyway. At least then we can get out from under the thumb of the profitakers. This woudl enable the gov to make some money and perhaps reduce its need to reduce services and increase taxes in other areas of life, as well as keep a balanced budget. (as if that really matters or is even possible)

Nov. 23 2009 02:04 PM

interesting point, Res Alien.

Nov. 23 2009 02:00 PM

Forget Mammogate...if usury laws are NOT introduced within the next year, THIS will be the issue that brings Obama down. Not on the Right but the Left. A true legal and moral litmus test.

Nov. 23 2009 01:58 PM
Resident Alien from Williamsburg, Brooklyn

Nobody is talking about the credit card TAX!

This tax is even imposed on people who are not using credit cards and pay cash or with debit card!!!

CC comanies charge vendors 3-5% per transaction, which is an additional cos for the merchant and cuts into their profit margin.

Merchants are NOT allowed by contract to charge this extra costs to the customers who actually accrue these costs, or give people a discount who pay cash or with debit card.

This needs to be changed by law!
If people want to use credit and convenience of plastic, they have to carry the cost. NOT everybody else!

Nov. 23 2009 01:58 PM
Rosalie from NY

Leonard, you ask if change has been made and Lowell said "No". That's exactly what Elizabeth Warren says in her NOW interview. Her interview is broader than credit cards and she says "NOTHING" has changed even though taxpayers bailed out the financial industry. Her interview is very disturbing for our country, capitalism, etc. as is your interview w/Lowell.

Nov. 23 2009 01:55 PM
Bob Kern from Avon

What about the fees for using an ATM not owned by your bank?

When ATMs were being introduced the company line was that it would save millions for a bank by letting them hire fewer tellers.

Now they are telling us that there's some cost to having a electronic transaction?

Nov. 23 2009 01:54 PM
Michael from Manhattan

This explains one of the mechanisms that is employed by the small minority that own 90% of the wealth in the USA to lure and keep us as economic sharecroppers. Making you think you have an economic stake by having a false line of credit and even the false sense of "home ownership" that the current home mortgage system perpetuates , dulls the mind and obscures the reality that you own nothing and owe everything.

Nov. 23 2009 01:49 PM
Rosalie from NY

For more info on how the credit card companies operated and continue to operate until changes take place in Feb 2010, check out Elizabeth Warren's interview on NOW PBS. There's mention of it in this interview: You'll also find more interviews w/her on the NOW PBS website if you do a search on her name.

Nov. 23 2009 01:48 PM
JK from Midtown

and for me personally, ive seen an increase in apr as well as an increase in the minimum monthly payment from 2% to 5%. its manageable for me, as a single guy, but i couldnt imagine how families are coping with this dramatic increase.

Nov. 23 2009 01:48 PM
Sheldon from Brooklyn

Yes, you the taxpayer subsidize banks with bailouts and by loaning them cheap, almost interest free money from the Fed, they then "loan" you that same money at 30% - Only in America.

Nov. 23 2009 01:41 PM
JK from Midtown

why do i still get offers from credit card for 1.99 apr on balance transfers but that same card is raising my purchase apr to 21%. (i have great credit and have never been late).

i just dont get it.

Nov. 23 2009 01:38 PM
Steven Mark from Manhattan UES

In a world of increasing federal regulation, should there not be a federal usury rate to which the states are subject? Enabling credit card companies to incorporate in states eager to increae job potential and thereby affording those companies rates that go up to 30% is a devils bargain that has helped create the crisis.

Nov. 23 2009 11:47 AM

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