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I'm ignorant to CC companies' financials. But I would have thought their revenues are driven by transaction fees, which end up ultimately getting passed down to the buyer through higher prices. Would be interested to learn more though about CC economics. It would indeed be sad if CC rewards operated like a regressive tax, as you say.





If you have poor credit, you get a crappy credit card: low limit, high interest rates, no rewards.

If you've got great credit, you get a high limit, slightly-less-astronomical rates, and all the rewards.

The cost of the rewards is (as I understand it) mainly carried by the transaction fees, spread out over all purchases everywhere. So you have pointless price increases for people who /don't/ use credit cards (like me) or have poor credit, and the benefits of that 'tax' going to users with good credit (ie, rich people). So, yeah, it's a wealth transfer to people with better credit.


I had poor credit at a point in time. I "bought" a credit card to build my credit by putting a deposit. After 1 year of on-time payments I was able to graduate to a credit card with cash back. The system didn't feel punitive to me, and honestly, I had poor credit in the first place because I was irresponsible while in college.

You just described a scenario in which you were systematically bilked for at least a year —- paying full retail prices, which presumably paid for full transaction fees, which in turn did not pay you any rewards —- so you could graduate to the privilege of being allowed to purchase a consumer line of credit that reduced the level of punishment to something merely appropriate.

There are relatively few businesses in the world that can rip someone off for a year, then allow them to pay a more reasonable fee in exchange for guaranteed business, and still have the consumer claim that the system “doesn’t feel punitive.” The whole thing is kind of brilliant.


It was a painful year that taught me a lesson. Looking at how fiscally responsible I have become, I really have no complains.

It's not financial responsibility or learning lessons, it's the fact that you consider earning cashback to be a reward for the ordeal you endured.

By participating in the cashback scheme you're putting more people through that ordeal by means of higher fees.

The only way to win is not to play.


I don't consider earning cash back to be a reward, but I see the credit card as a product that lends money based on a risk evaluation.

At that moment in my life, the risk on lending me money was high and therefore the product I could access was limited. There was little incentive for the bank to risk lending me money, so I needed to purchase my way into rebuilding my credit. As the risk in lending me money decreased, banks became incentivized to offer me lines of credit so the cash backs kicked in.

Rebuilding my credit has allowed me to access lower rates on my mortgage , investments loans and other financial tools that have greatly contributed to my quality of life. I would consider that to be the reward.


The problem is that the credit card "lending money" function is not what transaction fees pay for, and these fees are paid by all market participants -- including cash customers. People should be able to separate the payment function of a credit card (which is what merchants pay transaction fees for) from the "line of credit" function that banks make money on. However, this scenario would be less profitable for the industry, and so a small cartel of payment card networks and operators have worked hard to jam the two functions together. As a result, everyone (including cash customers) is heavily penalized for merely participating in the economy, unless they also purchase a profitable and risky line of credit.

It's frankly a brilliant scam, and the fact that people don't think it's a scam is its most brilliant aspect.


Discover has a secured card that earns cash back.

Of course, the system is designed to encourage you to be irresponsible in college.

It can get way worse than revenues being driven by interchange fees. Banks like Wells Fargo and Capital One operate like a classy pay-day loan company, targeting sub-prime customers who are more likely to not pay on time. I'd recommend reading this for more info: https://newrepublic.com/article/155212/worked-capital-one-fi...



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