Sears, Roebuck & Co. and several major banks announced new restrictions on consumer credit yesterday in response to the Federal Reserve Board's campaign to limit borrowing.
The minimum monthly payments on Sears Charge credit balances up to $500 will be raised $2 following the July billing period. The new minimum payment will be $10 on balances up to $160, and 4.3 percent on balances over that amount.
Sears Chairman Edward R. Telling, said the increase would impose "no hardship on our customers," while bringing Sears in line with the Fed's credit limits.
Crocker National Bank of San Francisco, the nation's 12th largest bank, said it will charge customers 12 cents each time they use MasterCard or Visa cards issued by the bank.
The new charge will take effect June 1. Crocker Bank said it also is increasing financing charges on credit card accounts by 3 percent. The new charge on balances up to $2,000 will be 21 percent, with an 18 percent rate on balances between $2,000 and $3,500, and 15 percent on balances over $3,500.
The bank is continuing to accept new applications for credit card accounts, but it is imposing a credit limit on new accounts of $2,500.
Citibank, the nation's second largest bank, said yesterday it is raising the fees it charges merchants using its credit cards by 1 percent effective May 1. It also will charge merchants an annual renewal fee of $75 for processing their MasterCard and Visa receipts. The average merchant now pays 4.33 percent of the amount on each bill to the bank, according to Citibank.
The change doesn't apply to merchants in the Baltimore-Washington area who are covered by Citibank's regional NAC credit card program, however, a bank spokesman said, NAC officials said no new fees are planned.
As a regional credit service, NAC isn't as sensitive to the impact to the Fed's credit policies as is Citibank headquarters in New York, which deals with major national commercial accounts, credit experts explained.
As they increased credit restrictoins, some banks and lending organizations continued yesterday to criticize the government's anti-inflation policies of singling out consumers unfairly.
Dee Hock, president of Visa U.S.A., said most Visa card holders are sound credit risks who pay bills promptly. "Consumers clearly feel they've been made into fall guys," Hock said, and he shares the view.
Hock said that in the days immediately following the announcement of new credit restrictions last month, many consumers immediately withdrew cash up to the limit permitted on their accounts. The cash advance volume on Visa cards jumped 50 percent for a short time. That trend doesn't appear to have continued, he said, in part because of limits imposed by banks.
First & Merchants National Bank in Richmond echoed Hock's complaint yesterday. "Because customers have typically policed their own credit affairs, as recently shown by decreasing credit purchases and increasing repayments, we are confident they will continue to do so," said F&M President Randolph W. McElroy.