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Citi (C) is abruptly shutting down credit cards linked to gas station partners.
The bank is offering few details:
The bank said in a statement it "decided to close a limited number of oil partner co-branded MasterCard accounts." That includes not only Shell, but Citgo, ExxonMobil and Phillips 66-Conoco cards.
The close date was Wednesday, and letters were sent out Monday to customers informing them of the change, a Citi spokesman said. The bank would not say how many cards were shut down or how much available credit they represented.
Citibank's average yield year-to-date (consumer and plastic) was about 12%. But they're suffering 10% defaults, making their true margin about 2%. That's still a positive number.... if it's accurate.
This spread, of course, has a lot to do with previously-issued fixed-rate 12.99% cards (they and everyone else had a lot) that were handed out like candy to everyone and their brother, frequently with $10,000, $20,000 or even $50,000 credit lines.
Huge numbers of small business owners - especially sole proprietors - use these cards as a means of financing operations. They relied on that 10 or 12% interest rate, and most of them have huge balances outstanding.
I have since confirmed that this letter is not just going to people who have had credit "challenges". Indeed, this appears to be a blanket change on the part of Citibank. I now have multiple copies from people who assert that they have 750+ FICOs and have never missed a payment on this or any other obligation - the "paragon" of so-called "responsible" credit use. All of the letters are identical.
The problem should be obvious - for someone with one of the 12.99% cards that is now 30%, this is a radical change that more than doubles monthly interest expense. Of those who have sent me copies of this letter and disclosed their previous rate, none were over 20%, meaning that these changes represent 50% or greater interest rate increases. If you're anywhere near the edge of being unable to pay, this will shove you off the bridge and into the deep, shark-infested water of bankruptcy.
Perhaps what we're really seeing is a business reacting to hidden deterioration of asset bases that are not known by investors and the public due to the legitimation of bogus accounting that happened this last March, but which is known by company executives!
This sort of "terms change", which is an effective declaration of default even against those who haven't defaulted (see above; the same 30% rate is being applied to defaulted and non-defaulted accounts!), will drive two consumer behaviors that could ultimately destroy Citibank's credit card business and perhaps the bank as a whole:
1. Those who can transfer balances out somewhere else and/or pay them off will immediately do so. Nobody is going to pay a 30% interest rate and an imposition of default rates on non-defaulted balances willingly and on purpose unless they have no other choice.
2. A significant number of people, on receipt of this notice and understanding what it means (a declaration that non-defaulted accounts are being charged the same penalty rate as a defaulted account!) will immediately go out and charge up the entire unused balance on their card and then intentionally default.
In short, this looks to me like a "Hail Mary" pass. So long as this remains a Citibank-only story my interpretation is that Citibank is in a lot worse financial shape than is being let on - perhaps poor enough that they're at risk of imploding anyway, "too big to fail" or not.
Citigroup needs money, and needs money badly. Moreover, there is no reason to believe this is all credit card related. In fact, there is every reason to believe Citigroup (and other banks) are in trouble on multiple fronts.
Originally posted by DrMattMaddix
This is also interesting...
Banking websites everywhere closed for maintenance at the same time tonight...
On the heals of Obama signing something that declares Swine Flu Emergency (Friday.)
All very SpookY!!!
Originally posted by projectvxn
reply to post by venividivici
So, too much research is a bad thing?
I'm not quite sure what you're saying, but KD at the Market Ticker is a hell of a researcher and often gets things right on the money. This guy is an advocate for the prosecution of fraud, rampant fraud, the permeates our system today. Are you saying that uncovering fraud and finding as many sources as possible to back up a theory is wrong? Should we just take the governments word for it then?