Remember all of those Wall Street bailouts? JPMorgan Chase, the nation's largest issuer of credit cards, got $25 billion. As Lori sees it, that taxpayer lifeline was a license to allow Chase to shaft its cardholders. The firm unilaterally has dumped a new fee on its cardholders and boosted minimum payments.

Remember all of those Wall Street bailouts?


JPMorgan Chase, the nation's largest issuer of credit cards, got $25 billion. As Lori sees it, that taxpayer lifeline was a license to allow Chase to shaft its cardholders. The firm unilaterally has dumped a new fee on its cardholders and boosted minimum payments.


"It's bull," says Lori.


Lori asks that this tale omit her and her husband's surname. In 2003, the Peoria-area couple got a credit card through what was then Bank One. They were smitten by the company's offer: If you were to transfer an outstanding balance from another card, Bank One would guarantee a rate of 4.99 percent for the life of that balance. The only other customer obligation was a one-time $75 transfer fee.


Lori took the deal. The next year, BankOne became part of Chase. And the deal remained intact.


Until now.


Chase recently sent out notices about changes for some customers: a new $10 monthly fee, plus a boost in the minimum monthly payment from 2 percent to 5 percent. Or, cardholders could opt for a boost in the overall fee from 4.99 to 7.99.


That's not much of a choice: Pay more or pay more.


Lori is taking the first route. It means $120 more a year in fees. Also, with a balance of $6,000, her $150 monthly payment has skyrocketed to $360.


That's no small potatoes. She and her husband can afford the hike now. But both work for a company that has seen layoffs. If either were to lose employment, that $200-plus a month would be crushing.


Chase did not return my call for comment. But a spokesperson recently told USA Today that the changes affect cardholders who had grabbed low promotional rates and had carried a "large balance" for more than two years. Further, the spokesperson pointed out that the changes affect only one-half of 1 percent of its accounts. Then again, that's 400,000 accounts - including Lori's.


To USA Today, the Chase mouthpiece called the firm a "responsible, careful" lender. It has to make changes due to market conditions, funding costs or borrower risk.


That last part really galls Lori. She and her husband have never missed a payment or even been late. They were playing by the rules, but Chase switched those rules.


She can't believe Chase is engaging in what she calls "breach of contract." Others are thinking likewise: Class-action suits have been filed in California, New York and Ohio. The Ohio suit claims Chase has reneged on its agreement, committed fraud and violated the Truth in Lending Act.


Lori is glad to see the lawsuits pop up. Then again, years could pass before a settlement arises. Relief, if any, is likely far out of sight.


Meantime, I can't see the long-view gain for Chase in goosing cardholders. Certainly, credit card companies face hard times as many customers default. But it's foolhardy to penalize good customers and make them carry deadbeats. Eventually, that tactic could bite them.


That notion motivates Lori. She and her husband are trying to hit back at Chase the best way they can. They encourage others to copy them.


"I'm going to pay off the balance," she says. "And we will never do business with Chase again."


Phil Luciano can be reached at pluciano@pjstar.com or (309) 686-3155.