It what certainly feels like yet another self-serving action by the credit card industry, Bank of America, Capital One, Citi and Discover Card, as well as the payments networks MasterCard and Visa have launched a new website HelpWithMyCredit.org that misleads consumers.
What appears to be even worse, is that a CNN personal financial reporter that I normally respect, Gerri Willis, has fallen for the trap. See CNN.
The website promotes itself as a banking industry effort to assist consumers that are struggling with debt problems. It even provides a self-help section that allows visitors to answer questions and guide themselves towards an appropriate solution. But what you don’t notice, until you look closely, is that the site simply guides consumers to credit counseling groups, and makes no mention of bankruptcy. The credit counseling groups specifically recommended on the site are Money Management International, Novadebt and Take Charge America, along with the networks of the National Foundation for Credit Counseling and the Association of Independent Consumer Credit Counseling Agencies.
I cringed when I read the site, for me, it is a strong and open reinforcement that the relationship today between credit counseling groups and credit card companies, is self-serving at best and truly deceptive at worse. What concerns me most is that consumers are being lead to believe that credit counseling is a legitimate solution for them at large, with no mention that credit counseling groups are compensated, by banks, by a percentage of the money the credit counseling companies collect from consumers and return to the banks.
If this credit card industry was truly interested in assisting consumers with their debt situation, instead of simply directing people into the hands of only one self-serving solution, credit counseling, in the interest of balance and fairness, there would be equal information provided about bankruptcy or even lump-sum debt settlements as a legal and viable option. There is not. What are we to deduce from that glaring omission?