Should I close my credit card?

by Wade Barnes 24. February 2010

There has been a lot of discussion this week revolving around the Credit Card reformation act that became effective this week (If you missed the conversation, check out the Credit Legislation post for details).   A result of the proposed legislation was a knee jerk reaction by the credit card companies to raise rates across the board to all of their customers, as future rate hikes will be regulated a bit more aggressively.  Over the past few months, many good customers whose rates have been hiked now feel slighted and want to close their account with their credit card holder.  By all means, if you feel so strongly don’t let me discourage you from acting.  On the flip side, this same legislation has unintentionally made credit harder to come by (and likely more expensive), so you may want to consider this before axing your old account.  On top of this, think through what affects this may have on your credit rating.

I had lunch with a friend a few weeks ago who is an executive at a local business.  He has never been late on his payments, never gone over his credit limit, has excellent credit, a stable job with a solid income but was still a victim of blanket rate increases by his unnamed credit card company.  Out of frustration, he wanted to close this account that has been opened for over 20 years.

The reality of it is, my friend never carries a balance on their card and hence is never affected by the associated interest rate.  Even if a balance was carried from month to month, I’d check out the competition’s rate before moving a balance as the grass isn’t always greener.

On to the core issue: If they close their credit card, an account with an excellent history, their credit score will take an immediate hit – especially if they open a new card in its place.  Not only would they close a beneficial account in their credit history, they would also reduce the available credit limit, which could affect the credit usage ratio (the amount of revolving credit outstanding / the total credit limit).  So, there are two factors that could possibly affect your credit score by closing an account with a solid history to keep in mind before jumping ship.  Keep in mind though, with a stable credit rating, even this minor hit won't affect your overall rating in the long-term and shouldn't be of great concern but there are consequences to every action that should be considered before making any financial decision.

For more information on how credit scores are calculated and factors that affect your score, check out the post on maintaining credit ratings during tough times or feel free to be in touch for more information

As always, I welcome questions and conversations about situations you may have encountered and how these recent changes have affected you.

What Relationship Banking is All About

by Elizabeth Sherman 24. February 2010

In April, 2009, Greater Grace World Outreach, a local religious organization, extended us the courtesy of a meeting.  The purpose of the meeting was to try to obtain their banking business.

"We at Greater Grace World Outreach had been looking for some time to reduce high bank fees and actually agreed to move our accounts to another well known national bank. Unfortunately, the conversion failed as that bank was unable to follow through with the service necessary to complete the transition.  This unpleasant and expensive experience left us very skeptical about attempting another change". – Pastor Peter Taggart

After meeting with Pastor Taggart, Jason Dieter and I conducted an analysis of the existing accounts and fees and determined 1st Mariner could save the church money without sacrificing service. A review of 1st Mariner's proposal convinced Greater Grace to move their banking relationship

As with any change, there were bumps in the road.  By keeping an open line of communication between the bank and the church, issues were resolved in a timely way to the customer’s satisfaction.  <

“Instead of being handed from department to department, we discovered the same people who handled the upfront sale were just as committed to the back end service.  Promises were kept, deadlines were met, calls were returned, and problems were quickly resolved”. – Pastor Peter Taggart

In December 2009, after reviewing their expenses for the year, Greater Grace determined they saved over $3,000 in banking fees in 2009, without any loss of service.  

“Not only have we realized lower costs, we also have a much more satisfactory relationship with our bank”. – Pastor Peter Taggart

In January 2010, our team evaluated the relationship in an effort to improve operational efficiency and lower the church’s cost of banking services.

This is what relationship banking is all about!


Meeting with FISC, a Non-Profit Research Organization in Japan

by Kevin Lynch 9. February 2010

Despite the challenging  travel conditions around Baltimore yesterday, we had the pleasure of meeting with Daisuke Ishii and Yukihisa Hode, two Senior Researchers from The Center for Financial Industry Information Systems (Japan). The FISC is a Japanese nonprofit research organization founded in 1984 and supported by some 700 Japanese financial services organizations and vendors marketing to that industry. Their mission is to engage in research services pertaining to the Japanese financial services industry.The meeting was coordinated by Michael Parentice, an independent consultant based in the United States.

FISC's current research project relates to new media and social networking in Japan's financial services industry.  As input they are seeking best practice examples from leading U.S. financial institutions that are leaders in the use of social media. Based on Mr. Prentice's research, he felt that we were one of the organizations that they should meet. This was the first visit on their five day trip across the country that includes meetings with Bank of America, Umpqua Bank, and Wells Fargo. We are honored to be included in this short list of financial institutions.

As we discussed the evolution of our efforts, it became clear that there are signficant challenges to FI's involvement in social networks. The Japanese culture is one of collaboration and consensus building. So many of the initial social media efforts have focused on internal corporate use for information sharing and communication. Given the conservative nature of the banking industry, it has been very difficult to get consensus across the organization to engage their customers in the same way. It will be interesting to see how this FISC report on the US bank's efforts will impact them in the long term.  We'll keep you posted when we get the final report.

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