Bank of America will no longer offer Credit Protection Plus or Credit Protection Deluxe for its new customers, according to a story in the Wall Street Journal. The products, designed to help Bank of America’s credit card customers make it through tough financial patches by either lowering or doing away with their monthly minimum payments, have faced a great deal of regulatory scrutiny for the fact that they might be terribly unfair to customers. BofA’s existing credit protection customers will have free access to the product until it is totally discontinued.
From the Journal:
Bank of America stopped offering products called Credit Protection Plus and Credit Protection Deluxe to new customers this month but is continuing provide them for the time being to existing cardholders who are enrolled in the services, Betty Riess, a spokeswoman for Bank of America, confirmed Monday.
The decision to discontinue the products, which are provided by third-party vendors, is part of the bank’s “larger strategy to streamline our business,” Ms. Riess said, citing Bank of America’s recent moves to exit certain businesses and sell assets deemed non-core.
Consumer advocates have argued the products provide little financial benefit to consumers, and customers have alleged in lawsuits that banks’ sales agents have enrolled them in the services without their consent and mischaracterized their costs and features.
Bank of America still offers Credit Protection Plus on its website. According to the page, the plan costs $0.85 for every $100 in outstanding balance (up to $25,000) at the end of a month. So a consumer with $1,000 on her credit card would pay $8.50 in addition to whatever interest she paid. However, in the event that she lost her job or had to save for a wedding, she would be able to cease payments on her card entirely without damaging her credit.
The BankAmeriCard Cash Rewards is one of Bank of America’s most straightforward cards. Its APR ranges from 12.99% to 20.99%, depending on creditworthiness. Its monthly minimum payment can be as low as $15.
According to the Journal, the Government Accountability Office found that customers rarely see benefits from these products returned to them in “tangible financial benefits.” Perhaps this insurance just gives customers peace of mind in a world where your debts can easily kick you when you’re down — by harming your credit score and making it even more difficult to get out of debt. Which isn’t to say that putting off your minimum payments while you’re deep in debt is smart financial planning, either — this just allows for interest payments to rack up.
The bank settled a suit this year for $20 million over misleading marketing of its credit protection products, though the Journal points out that discontinuing the products was not a part of the settlement. It does require, however, “the bank to provide two months of credit protection to customers already enrolled in the services for free, though it has independently decided to do so for six months as it winds down the products,” writes the Journal.