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Advice From MasterCard

by Jason Steele

This week, I have been examining the credit card advice being handed out by the major card processors themselves.   I didn’t expect much, and I wasn’t disappointed yesterday, when we all had a good laugh at some of the inaccuracies propaganda, an hypocrisy at Amex’s consumer advice page.

Today Is MasterCard’s Turn

First, I have to give MasterCard some credit for creating a couple of slick looking sites called the Learning Center and Priceless Pointers.    They make Amex’s site look like a high school HTML project.   That said, their approach to personal finance is a little bit disorganized, with much of the information from the more basic “learning center” overlapping with the much more slickly produced priceless pointers.   Furthermore, they mix all sorts of coupons and discount offers with advice on getting out of debt.  It is kind of contradictory to offer advice on getting out of debt while linking to merchants where you can spend more money.

So it looks nice, but with my propaganda and hypocrisy radar turned up, let’s see what I can find.     One of the Pricesless Pointers is a Frequently Asked Questions page (FAQ) with the question along the lines of, I have thousands of dollars in medical bills that I can’t pay, what should I do?   The answers they give are spend less money and try to negotiate your bills down.    The two major problems that I see are, 1) By the time you medical provider has put this charge on your credit cards it is too late negotiate them.   They have already been paid, and they won’t give the money back!  2) No where does it mention the possibility of declaring bankruptcy.   The question specifically mention “that there is no way that I will ever be able to pay” the bills.   If paying your bills is impossible, bankruptcy might be your best option.    I know if my life were at risk, I would probably rack up the credit card and declare bankruptcy rather than die and/or starve.   Of course, we don’t seriously expect MasterCard to suggest you even entertain such an idea, as their member banks take a loss when cardholders declare bankruptcy.

What They Don’t Say

Sometimes, propaganda is more about what they don’t say than what they do.   While I was critical of Amex for providing such a shallow overview of the CARD Act, I was unable to find any information at all on MasterCard’s site about the most important piece of credit card legislation in decades!   Like Amex’s site, I didn’t really expect to see any lessons about how much money you waste when paying interest on your credit cards.   There was nothing about how credit cards can either be used as a method of payment or a method of finance, or how difficult it can be to switch from one to another.   They say nothing on the issue of Foreign Exchange fees either.

What They Do Say

I will give them credit for mentioning the AnnualCreditReport.com web site in their guide to repairing damaged credit, as well as for breaking down the components of the FICO score.

Conclusions

They spent some time and money making parts of this site look good, but they still leave out the most basic credit card advice there is, never carry a balance.    They are also sorely lacking any information on the CARD Act.  All and all, I give this site a C+.

Tomorrow, I will conclude the series with a look at Visa’s consumer advice.

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