The Secret of History of the Credit Card
The Secret History of the Credit Card is an old Frontline documentary featuring Senator Elizabeth Warren when she was still a Harvard law professor and ex-New York governor Elliott Spitzer when he was still state attorney general. It traces the “secret” repeal (and circumvention) of state usury laws that allowed banks to charge as much as 30% on credit card loans. This, in turn, made credit card banks the most profitable companies in the US. In 2003, several of them earned higher profits than MacDonald’s or Microsoft.
In 1981, when Citibank made its infamous deal with South Dakota, high interest rates were causing a massive loss for credit card companies. Although they paid 12% on average to borrow funds from other banks, state usury laws capped the interest they could charge customers at 9%. In return for South…
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