Capital One May Not Be Pillagers But They Are Peeping Toms


I recently checked my credit rating (thanks to AnnualCreditReport.com), which is something everyone needs to do regularly. I noticed that Capital One, they of the “pillaging Vikings” and David Spade “NO” commercials, had checked my credit dozens of times this year. I do not have, nor have I ever had, a Capital One credit card.
Seems this is a common practice:

The credit card issuer is famous for constantly checking consumer credit reports in the hopes of finding new borrowers which it can bombard with its credit offers, or luring credit card customers away from their current lender with better terms.
Because there’s no limit to how many times a lender can make a soft inquiry on a credit report, lenders such as Capitol One can blitz your record as often as they wish, and fill up your mailbox with offers you don’t want.

So Capital One is keeping Direct Mail people extra busy. And for good reason. For those of you who don’t think junk mail works, think again:

When Brad Kehn received his first credit card from Capital One Financial Corp. in 2004, it took him only three months to exceed its $300 credit limit and get socked with a $35 over-limit fee. But what surprised the Plankinton (S.D.) resident more was that Cap One then offered him another card even though he was over the limit — and another and another. By early 2006, he and his wife had six Cap One Visa and MasterCards. They were in over their heads.
Credit card experts and counselors who help overextended debtors say there’s nothing crazy about it. Cap One, they contend, is simply aiming to maximize fee income from debtors who may be less sophisticated and who may not have many options because of their credit history. By offering several cards with low limits, instead of one with a larger limit, the odds are increased that cardholders will exceed their limits, garnering over-limit fees. Juggling several cards also increases the chance consumers may be late on a payment, incurring an additional fee. And if cardholders fall behind, they pile up over-limit and late fees on several cards instead of just one. “How many more ways can I fool you?” says Elizabeth Warren, a Harvard Law School professor who has written extensively on the card industry. “That is all this is about.”

This is another case where mass advertising–in the form of tons of TV spots backed up by piles of junk mail–only serves to sucker people. It makes our industry look bad because Capital One spends millions bombarding the public to make itself a household name simply to get people sunk in debt. Do yourself a favor: When you get junk mail from Capital One or get tempted by one of those pillager TV spots, make sure the answer is always “no.”

About Dan Goldgeier

Dan Goldgeier is a Seattle-based freelance copywriter with experience at advertising agencies across the U.S. He is a graduate of the Creative Circus ad school, and currently teaches at Seattle's School of Visual Concepts. Dan is also a columnist for TalentZoo.com and the author of View From The Cheap Seats and Killer Executions and Scrubbed Decks.