Almost two months ago, President Barack Obama announced the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
“A watchdog for the American consumer,” he called it, during a speech appointing Elizabeth Warren the head of the new bureau.
“For years, banks and mortgage lenders and credit card companies have often used fine print and confusing language and attractive front-end offers to take advantage of American consumers,” he said. “The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which was one of the central aspects of financial reform, will empower all Americans with the clear and concise information they need to make the best choices — the best financial decisions — for them and their families. Never again will folks be confused or misled by the pages of barely understandable fine print.”
Obama is just as fed up with fine print and confusing bank tactics as PerkStreet is.
If you ever read the Fine Print Magnified section of our blog, you know it’s a point of particular irritation to us. In our minds, the banks citizens used to trust for financial advice like whether or not we should wait to buy a home or if we’re financially stable enough to start families, have been in bed with the credit card industry for far too long. Tricking your customers into paying you more shouldn’t be what banking is about. It’s why we take so much pride in offering the best value around on debit.
It seems Obama’s new bureau is taking aim at the credit card industry first.
“Credit cards can help point to an overall philosophy for the agency,” Warren said in a recent interview. “The main principle is to make credit markets work for families. What does it take to be able to do that? A family should be able to see the price, see the risk and make apples-to-apples comparisons among products.”
Warren and the bureau are looking to change the rules about credit card fine print right away.
“Right now, a lot of Americans feel their banks can’t be trusted, and they see credit cards and most transactions with their bank as potentially dangerous transactions,” she said.
This is exactly the kind of thing PerkStreet’s been trying to fight by offering an innovative product that our competitors can’t keep up with. We want our customers to be able to understand what we’re providing. We want them to be able to talk to us — even to one another in online forums like Facebook — about what they’re getting when they sign up for a PerkStreet account.
Some in the industry are worried.
Because, if they can’t hide behind gimmicks — behind smoke and mirrors — then they can’t trick you into signing up for their cards instead of ours.
We say, bring it on.
“All this has cost American families billions of dollars — tens of billions of dollars — that they could have used to pay the bills or make the mortgage or send their kids to college,” said Obama in the same speech.
We couldn’t agree more and we couldn’t be more frustrated about this fact. To be sure, many PerkStreet employees are still paying off student loans and beating back (overpriced) mortgages of our own. We started this company to fight back against the trickery we were sick of seeing in our industry.
But we’re here to say that this isn’t the only way to be treated by a financial institution, and you don’t have to wait for the Federal Government to stand up for these principles. Then again, so is Warren…
“The industry itself can design business models around the variables and around the other parts of offering a credit product — customer service, price, cool iPhone apps — there are a lot of ways to compete for customers and a lot of parts in that product,” she said. “The point is not to force anyone not to offer any particular product; it’s to make what they are offering transparent.”
Transparency in finance? That’s our corporate middle name. New business models? That’s why our investors are backing us.
What do you get when you have a whole bunch of bankers who are sick of a broken industry? It’s simple.
You get PerkStreet.
So you tell us… What should we be doing better to fight back against the stuff about this industry you hate? How could we better serve you? We’re listening. We want to know, because we’re certain we can do it for you. And when we do, we’re going to lift our heads from our laptops and balance sheets and we’ll still be ahead of the curve. And if we’ve done it right, you’ll still be our customer and all the other people who will at that time be looking at a much clearer picture of the banking industry as a whole will be asking you how the heck you found out about us.