Regular readers of this column will recall that a few months ago Suburban Trust Co. tried to begin charging its customers an annual membership fee for Visa cards.
The attorney general of Maryland ruled that such a charge would be illegal, so Suburban Trust suspended the planned charge and invited new applications from former customers who had cut up their cards in protest. Many readers informed me that instead of reapplying to Suburban Trust they obtained cards without charge from other banks.
At this writing, Suburban Trust has joined several other Maryland banks in a legal challenge to the attorney general's ruling, and the matter is pending.
Meanwhile James E. Chapman of Burke informs me that his Visa card bank has eliminated the interest-free period that has hitherto been available between the date on which something was charged to an account and the date for payment that was indicated on a subsequent statement.
In other words, his bank has begun charging interest on every transaction, even if the cardholder pays his bill, infull, five minutes after he receives a statement.
The bank will collect a percentage from the store that honors its cards and another percentage from customers who patrionize the store.
Chapman has forwarded to me a notice regarding the new plan (which went into effect last week). The notice was sent out by the Credit Card Center in Dallas.
The form letter says, "A complete explanation of the charges in your Cardholder Agreement is provided on the reverse side of this letter." On the reverse side there is printed a comparison of the new and old agreements, each followed by the suggestion to "See paragraph 6 of the new agreement" or "See paragraph 10 of the new agreement."
However, I found nothing identified as paragraph 6 or paragraph 10, and I'm not sure what the interest rate will be. The old finance charge was 18 percent a year and I assume that a comparable charge is now being levied on all credit card charges -- starting with the moment they are posted.
Chapman says he has stopped using his card because of these terms. I am certain that thousands of other cardholders will join him in this move.
Either they will obtain new cards from banks that do not levy such fees or they will learn to live without credit cards.
The latter course may sound radical to you, but it really is not. We lived without credit cards before, and we can do it again.
Life is not possible without credit cards, it is much more serene. THE NEED IS CONSTANT
Mrs. J. Richardson of McLean offers a brief comment worth sharing with you. She writes:
"I think the Washington people were wonderful in their response to the call for blood for Harold McLinton. Now would be a good time to tell your readers how much the Red Cross and hospitals need blood regularly -- for operations and especially major surgery, and for accident victims.
"John Doe may need blood as desperately as Harold McLinton, but his name is not in headlines to let people know he needs help. I am only a middle-aged housewife but I feel that those who are able to give should give on a regular basis."
I agree, and I have a similar attitude toward contributions to charity. The need for sharing is not limited to one day on which a well-loved or well-known person requires help, or to the amount we give when the holiday season (or a year-end tax deduction) puts us in a charitable mood.
The youngsters at Children's Hospital, the widows and orphans aided by Heroes, Inc., and all the other recipients of our help need it every day of the year.
In some homes, charity is taught to children as soon as they are old enough to understand the concept of sharing. These children become adults for whom charity is a daily concern and a way of life.
Homes of this kind are not as numerous as they might be. But there are enough of them to give us hope that tomorrow will be better. THESE MODERN TIMES
Postcard from Sky Phillips Beaven of Alexandria:
"Congressmen are giving alcoholics a bad name. Maybe AA should file a class action suit."