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4. Local Credit Unions. Varies from 4 to 9 out of 10.
Smaller credit unions who issue credit cards are usually pretty tough to beat in court, mostly because they’re local and they can drive a witness there to prove their case against you, rather than having to fly someone in from Des Moines. Furthermore, they usually cross-collateralize their cards with auto loans and things like that, so they can hold your car hostage to your credit card bills. But their smallness sometimes makes them easier to get to a real person who may understand your predicament and be willing to work out an affordable payment plan.
5. Chase Bank. 4 out of 10.
Chase usually won’t sue people without first putting a lot of effort into collecting voluntary payments from them. If you get behind with either of them, you’re much more likely to have the account sent to a third-party debt collector than facing a Capital One-style blast of lawsuit papers.
6. Citibank. 3.5 out of 10.
Like Chase, Citi will try very hard to get you to pay on your own before taking you to court, and even then they’ll usually farm out the dirty work to a collector. I know from recent experience that Citibank employs one of the more legit third-party debt collectors I’ve dealt with – United Collection Bureau – to handle its collections pre-chargeoff, and they can be fairly flexible if you can explain to them why you’re not making payments.
7. Store cards: JCPenny, Victoria’s Secret, Lowe’s, etc. 1.5 out of 10. These guys win the “Most Lenient to their financially distressed customers” prize. They hardly ever sue their customers. I suspect that it is for two reasons:
1) The balances usually are not that high, and
2) They want you to keep shopping there whenever you get out of financial trouble. Even though the stores themselves don’t actually own the debts – usually they farm out that job to other banks like GE Money Bank (which recently changed its name to GE Capital Retail Bank). They will almost certainly sell your account to a third party debt buyer, who may or may not sue you. But even then, they are typically fairly easy to settle for a decent discount.
One thing you do need to watch out for with GECRB accounts is your credit report. They often add authorized users (like your spouse or kid) to the credit card account so the whole family can shop till they drop, but then later report the account on their credit reports, even though the initial applicant is the only person who is actually liable. Check your credit reports, folks.
So that’s it for your 2014 Credit Card Aggression ratings 2014! Come back next year to see if anyone can top Capital One in Ebenezer Scrooginess.
I invite my fellow debtor’s lawyers to give their input regarding my list.