Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Credit Card Update

If your not into listening tot he podcast I linked to yesterday, you can read the article that the Planet Money guest, Charles Duhigg, wrote here. It's six pages, so be ready for a long read. You can also hear an interview with Charles on the Leonard Lopate show if you can't get enough of this. Also, big ups tot he New York Times Magazine for the nice simple yet illustrative graphics. Here are a few quotes to give you the idea, but you should read the whole thing. It's real interesting.
"The other solution was learning to predict how different types of customers would behave. Card companies began running tens of thousands of experiments each year, testing the emotions elicited by various card colors and the appeal of different envelope sizes, for instance, or whether new immigrants were more responsible than cardholders born in this country. By understanding customers’ psyches, the companies hoped, they could tell who was a bad risk and either deny their application or, for those who were already cardholders, start shrinking their available credit and increasing minimum payments to squeeze out as much cash as possible before they defaulted."

"data indicated, for instance, that people who bought cheap, generic automotive oil were much more likely to miss a credit-card payment than someone who got the expensive, name-brand stuff. People who bought carbon-monoxide monitors for their homes or those little felt pads that stop chair legs from scratching the floor almost never missed payments. Anyone who purchased a chrome-skull car accessory or a “Mega Thruster Exhaust System” was pretty likely to miss paying his bill eventually."

Most of the major credit-card companies have set up systems to comb through cardholders’ data for signs that someone is going to stop making payments. Are cardholders suddenly logging in at 1 in the morning? It might signal sleeplessness due to anxiety. Are they using their cards for groceries? It might mean they are trying to conserve their cash. Have they started using their cards for therapy sessions? Do they call the card company in the middle of the day, when they should be at work? What do they say when a customer-service representative asks how they’re feeling? Are their sighs long or short? Do they respond better to a comforting or bullying tone?


Gnarly Neal said...

Awesome read. Although it is 6 pages, its appeal makes it very easy to read. Makes you think about what you buy with a credit card, and how it will be analyzed.

cattina said...

that's crazy!!