First, instead of the checks that promised balance transfers, money for that kitchen renovation or that holiday in the sun–all for 1.99% or 2.99% for so many billing cycles–began arriving letters.  Letters informing me that my credit limit had been reduced to just a few dollars over what I already owed on the card.  Effectively cutting off my ability to use a credit card, creating interesting situations while paying for airline tickets or children’s dental care–I mean, who carries (or has) that kind of cash sitting around.  Never mind that I never missed a payment (ok, maybe once while I was traveling before online banking made it possible to pay any bill from any internet-connected place in the world). Oh, and the kitchen was never renovated nor holidays taken; school fees for college kids, property tax payments (this is CA, after all), and the like are what those checks were used for.

Then came the letters announcing hefty increases on every credit card, essentially doubling the minimum payment.  Cards that were 8.99% went to 14.99%, and one card went as high as 29.99%.  Suddenly, between the mortgage/car/house insurance payments and the credit card payments, my paycheck evaporated.  But there is still the water/ phone/ gas/ electricity/ municipal services set of bills to pay! and no credit card to pay them with!  Hmmm, wonder if that British phone booth tin in which we empty out our change has enough to pay the gas bill?

Then Citibank called with an offer.  Pay your minimum due every month–which I do electronically, so a payment is never missed in any case–and anything you pay over that amount, we’ll give you a percentage back!  Want to sign up for that offer?  Well, who wouldn’t like to see the banks–who have been bailed out with my tax dollars and have nonetheless hiked their interest rates–do the good ethical thing and give some of that money back?  Well, silly, gullible, me.  Another letter came in the mail, and in the very fine print–you also miss it unless you are a compulsive back-of-the-cereal-box reader like me–it says that the bank will reduce the credit line on the card by the amount paid over the minimum due.

Sounds like it was a back door way of reducing the credit (which they so desperately wanted you to have in the good ole days) now that they had already walked through the front door.  While making it sound they were giving you a bonus!  I just love marketing–just step on this pedestal, and before you know it, you are falling like Alice through tunnels that go way underground.  How on earth does one dig oneself out.

But this weekend was the final straw.  I park my paycheck in the line of credit I have with my bank, and draw on it as needed as bills come up to their pay-by due date.  So after a long week of work, I settle in late Friday evening with my pile of bills, a nice hot cup of tea, my online banking session begun, and voilà, time to transfer funds out of the line of credit to my checking account.

Except, there is no available credit.

I blink.

Check:  credit limit.  Check:  balance.  No, I have not reached the credit limit.  Yes, I should have available to me my paycheck amount, which I had transferred into my line of credit just a few days before.  But no, available credit still says 0.  Zero.  Nada. Nothing.

Online chat specialist?  sorry, they don’t deal with lines of credit.  Call at 5 am the next morning hoping there is someone on the east coast at 8 am ready to sort me out so I can pay the bills due this upcoming week? Nah, they don’t work weekends.  Go in to the bank? Nah, they don’t deal with that kind of stuff–I should call Monday and lady, it is a line of credit, which the bank can freeze anytime it wants.

Change to spare, anyone?