Sanders says credit card companies should lower interest rates

By:  Ross Sneyd
Vermont Public Radio

(Host) Senator Bernie Sanders says the U.S. Congress should prohibit credit card companies from charging exorbitant interest rates.

(Sanders) "I think we need a national usury rate and what we are proposing is to do for the private financial institutions what has existed for credit unions for some 30 years, and that is 15 percent max, under certain circumstances it can go higher. And in fact credit unions have done pretty well living under those regulations."

(Host) The Senate is scheduled to vote on a bill as early as today that would crack down on credit companies.

Sanders says his office has received hundreds of complaints about credit card companies changing rates, charging new fees and adopting new policies.

His office asked constituents to write in with their experiences and got well more than 1,000 responses.

Sanders has printed a 20-page booklet summarizing some of the things that have happened to people.

James Sheldon-Dean of Charlotte says his family has a couple of credit cards from Bank of America. The bank has boosted rates and reduced his available credit, which hurts his overall credit rating.

Sheldon-Dean says the changes were made even though he's always paid his bills on time.

(Sheldon-Dean) "Personally, I find this insulting and demeaning behavior. And I have to wonder about the business sense of a company that thinks it's a good idea to so systematically abuse its best customers, its longest-term customers."

(Host) Sanders says the bill pending in the Senate will help to control some of what the senator thinks of what the worst abuses by credit card companies.

He says controls are needed because Americans rely so heavily on their credit cards for basic necessities.

(Sanders) "And given that reality, the idea that these companies are being bailed out by taxpayers and are receiving zero interest loans from the Fed are able to charge 25-30 percent, is immoral and it is wrong and we must allow that to happen."

(Host) Sanders says he believes the new bill will make a difference. But he says consumers would protected even more if there were a national credit interest rate cap of 15 percent. He says he'll continue pushing for that policy.