Citigroup Hikes Credit Card Rates Just in Time to Avoid New Laws

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Bailed-out Citigroup increased interest rates on millions of credit card accounts in the US between January and April, just in time to avoid new laws limiting interest rate hikes. The Financial Times reports:

Citigroup has sharply increased interest rates on up to 15m US credit card accounts just months before curbs on such rises come into effect, in a move that could fuel political anger at the treatment of consumers by bailed-out banks.

People close to the situation said that Citi, which is about to cede a 34 per cent stake to the US government as part of its latest rescue, had upped rates on between 13m and 15m credit cards it co-brands with retailers such as Sears.

Citi’s rate increases emerged on the day the government proposed legislation to create a new regulator with sweeping powers on consumer protection and a week after the bank was attacked by some politicians for raising employees’ salaries.

Holders of co-branded cards who failed to pay their balance in full at the end of the month saw their rates rise by an average 24 per cent – or nearly 3 percentage points – between January and April, according to a Credit Suisse analysis of data from the consultancy Lightspeed Research.

Can someone remind me why the government bailed this bank out?

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