Consumer Payment Card News

MBNA Change

Cardholders have successfully pressured the second largest issuer in the USA to change its ways. Earlier this month, MBNA sent out cardholder statements which deleted the “New Balance Total” from the tear-off payment coupon. MBNA cardholders who pay-off their total balance each month were forced to look elsewhere on the statement to determine the correct payment to make. The new format immediately drew the attention of the Washington Post and, subsequently, other major newspapers. MBNA also reportedly received thousands of complaints from its customers. Late last week, MBNA confirmed it will return to the original format, which prominently displayed the “New Balance Total” at the top of the statement. MBNA initially said the reason for the change was due to security concerns. In fact some credit bureaus use the outstanding balance information to verify the consumer’s identity. However, MBNA was the first issuer to adopt a statement format that eliminates the new balance information from the payment stub. In the fourth quarter of 2002, MBNA launched a campaign to encourage its cardholders to make a $15 minimum payment instead of the usual required minimum payment, which is based on the overall balance. Some cardholders believed the new format was intended to mislead them into making the special $15 reduced payment. Over the past year, MBNA has become more aggressive in its business practices, as growth and profits have slowed. For example, MBNA has engaged in the practice of punitive interest rates based on the cardholder’s current credit score. Cardholders, who were never in default on their MBNA credit card account, had their interest rate raised to 24.99% if their current credit score declined from the score at the time the account was opened. MBNA recently reported that its profits for the final three months of 2002 were up 2.9% over 2001. One year ago, MBNA reported that its profits for final three months of 2001 were up 23.8% over 2000. MBNA currently manages more than 50 million credit card accounts and $107.3 billion in outstanding loans.

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