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Chase Adding Annual Fee Out of the Blue

This article was written by in Credit. 16 comments.

Updated March 31, 2009: Chase has been ordered by NY Attorney General to refund the money gathered from the process described below.

I’ve always thought that credit cards with annual fees were a ridiculous notion. Other than having a credit history which requires you to get a secured card (been there), it’s usually no problem to find a card with no annual fee. But even if you do pick a card with a fee, it’s supposed to be something you decide to do to yourself.

JPMorgan Chase has started adding an annual fee to credit accounts for its customers who fit the following criteria:

  • the credit card has a low promotional rate
  • the card owner has carried a “large” balance for more than two years
  • the card owner has made “little” progress paying off the balance

I couldn’t tell from the news reports how Chase is defining “large” and “little.”

In addition to the $120 annual fee (which is added to the account in $10 monthly chunks and which accrues interest itself), the bank is also raising minimum payments from 2% to 5%.

When we wrote recently about Citigroup raising its rates in spite of a pledge not to do so, we got some very helpful and encouraging comments on the article from people who’d managed to talk to the right customer service reps and get their original terms reinstated.

Let us know if you’re affected, and what you plan to do. There’s already a class-action lawsuit you can join.

Updated March 31, 2009 and originally published February 10, 2009. If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the RSS feed or receive daily emails. Follow @ConsumerismComm on Twitter and visit our Facebook page for more updates.

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About the author

Smithee formerly lived primarily on credit cards and the good will of his friends. He is a newbie to personal finance but quickly learning from his past mistakes. You can follow him on Twitter, where his user name is @SmitheeConsumer. View all articles by .

{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar rhysm

The credit card companies are the next at risk of a huge crash. Crap like this is just making that more likely – way to add an additional fee to the most vulnerable population of card holders! Part of their criteria is that the cardholder has made “little progress” to paying it down for at least 2years…which means they probably can’t…so adding an extra annual fee is not going to be ‘paid’ but put on the card and make it that much more likely that the cardholder will eventually declare bankruptcy. The cost to CC companies of pushing people to bankruptcy will be a lot more than they’ll get by instituting these absurd fees.

Arbiters of their own demise…nice play lol.

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avatar Tim

sorry, but Waaaaaaa to all those who are complaining about this. pay the cards off and don’t carry a balance, and this won’t affect you. a cc isn’t a right and it isn’t the end all. how high do cc companies have to increase the rates and charges fees before people start telling themselves, “hey, stupid, yeah you in the mirror, i can’t afford to spend on credit.” seems to me that if i was getting this fee, it would be a great incentive to stop carrying balances. however, we wall know that the consumer is the victim here, though.

i agree, though, that some of these measures which were designed originally to be punitive turned into a source of revenue for the cc companies, and because of it, they are continuing to use the revenue source model, which does not fit the current scenario. the only good, but bad thing to come of it, is that those who default will hurt their credit scores for the next 7 years and have a hard time to get new credit during those years.

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avatar Customers Revenge

It’s not really wah wah wah because the credit card company and the individual agreed to a deal, and the lying credit card company goes back on the deal. That’s bad behaviour. Undoubtably the credit card company has left themselves the rights to change interest rates for any reason at any time, but that’s because they’re bullies. A big company against a little individual. You can’t reserve the right to change the interest rate you want to pay, or any of your interest rates when dealing with the bank, but they reserve all the rights to change the deal as much as they want.

By the way, I use low rate credit cards to fund some investments and therefore carry a large balance without paying it off. If they change the rate on me it’s a big hassle to transfer money around to pay it off.

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avatar Twiggers

Does someone know if Chase has to send you a notice and you can agree to close your card? I paid off my Chase card last year and never intend on using it again. I just keep it open for the history, but I’ll close it in a heartbeat. Maybe I’ll just close it anyways to be safe.

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avatar Steph

Okay, so I just got off the phone with them. This poor kid…as soon as I explained the situation he says horrified, “Oh god, another one.” I explain to him that it was fine, really…that if they didn’t take the annual fee and the drop the minimum balance percentage in 10 minutes or less, that I would move my money to another card. He asks me what kind of terms I had. I tell him 3.99 for 2 years with no transfer fee. He says, “Do it. I have a 13k balance with Chase and they raised my rate to 16.99% and added an annual fee, and I don’t have any other offers.”

He was helpful in advising that I take the alternative offer, in which they will drop the minimum payment back to 2% and drop the fee, but will raise the APR to 7.99%. I had kindly told him to shove his offer, but with the new FICO stuff coming out today, it probably wouldn’t be a good idea to close the account out altogether. So I ask him where the details of this offer was, and he tells me that it was on the letter from November that got sent out. I tell him that I never received a letter (I’m way too anal about this stuff and read/keep everything I get in pretty little folders) and so he puts in to have the letter reissued. He then thanked me for not threatening to shoot him, and warned me to watch the rest of the banks, too, because apparently the insider scoop is that they will all be following suit with the same thing. He then pitched the Chase Protection Plan. Hilarious.

So, I’ll put in the balance transfer, move my stuff to someone else, and let my Chase accounts rot until they cancel me for inactivity. Oh, and Tim guy…sometimes bad stuff just happens that is beyond someone’s control and they have no choice but to tap their credit. Hopefully you won’t lose your job with the economy and in a year be saying, “Hey, stupid, yeah you in the mirror, I wish I had 1 credit card so I could eat tonight….”

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avatar rhysm

Yeah, my point isn’t necessarily to ‘wah wah’ but to point out how the CC companies are probably not acting in their own best interests by doing this.

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avatar Nate

Ugh Smithee! The part that would bug me is people who take advantage of special rates. Seems like rope-a-dope. Lure them in with good rates them sock them with fees. If I find out Chase puts a fee on any of my cards(which I have 3 with chase) I will close them faster than a redneck fart. This is why I have no loyalty toward any business.

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avatar kitty

@Customers revenge: “t’s not really wah wah wah because the credit card company and the individual agreed to a deal, and the lying credit card company goes back on the deal.”

Actually, they clearly spelled out in the agreement that they reserve the right to change the rules; so nope they haven’t agreed to a deal, at least not to a deal that you had in mind. By agreeing to use the card, you agreed to the rules including the one allowing them to introduce new fees or raise interest. It’s your problem you didn’t bother to read the agreement. Don’t carry balances, and you’ll have no problems. If you do, sorry, they have a right to do whatever they feel is good for their business. Their responsibility is to their shareholders and not to you. As with any business, if you don’t like new rules, cancel the card. Your right.

And it’s not the “credit card companies”, it’s banks. Same banks you do your business with every day. There are 4 credit card companies, and half of them – Visa and Master Card – don’t have anything to do with lending or setting fees or collecting interest. They only get fees from merchants. They don’t even care if you use a credit card or a debit card (but press credit). I find it funny how people say that they don’t want to deal with “credit card companies” and continue to deal with the same banks.

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avatar kitty

“By the way, I use low rate credit cards to fund some investments and therefore carry a large balance without paying it off. If they change the rate on me it’s a big hassle to transfer money around to pay it off.”
It’s your problem. You are trying to make money off them, they are trying to make money off you.

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avatar thomas

Well, that’s one way to get rid of business.

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avatar Customers Revenge

Kitty: I totally agree with you about them reserving rights to change the deal and mentioned it in the comment, and I mentioned banks too. I find them to be bullies. I have had rates increased for no reason. But tell me, what kind of a deal is “I lend you $50 and then you pay me whatever I demand, and I’ll tell you after you’ve used the money and made plans to repay it.” You expect them to keep up the rates at the time you signed. Nobody would sign if they thought the company was going to increase rates.

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avatar Customers Revenge

Kitty: Didn’t see your second comment. I’m just trying to get “happiness” from what I do. I borrow to buy an investment, someone else borrows to buy a furniture set. We’re both in the same problem in that the bank changed the deal. But I’m in less of a problem because I have an asset that is worth something while the other person has some chairs.

I pay them a rate, I just expect them to keep the same rate.

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avatar Weev

“Their responsibility is to their shareholders and not to you.”

If the customers all leave, how are the shareholders going to feel about that.

happy customers = sales = happy shareholders

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avatar Andy

Actually, Kitty it is a violation of Truth in Lending. Advertising a 2.99% for life of balance and than changing the terms is not legal, regardless of what the contract says. It is simply bait and switch and the government looks very unkindly to companies that do it.

Chase has been sued in California for violating truth in lending laws because of what they did. Good luck to their lawyers trying to defend it.

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avatar Marlene

I just received in the mail from Discover Card notification of a change on my account. To highlight some of the changes effective April 1st. are:

1. Foreign Currency Transcation Fee
2. Changes in the Rewards Program
3. Discontinuing Wallet Protection and
the Register
4. Eliminating 2 cycle average daily balance and using average daily balance

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avatar Peter


I saved the offer letter for my “life of the balance 3.99 offer”. The fine print is pretty detailed as to what the customer has to do to keep the rate. Nothing is disclosed about the possibility of having to pay a “service fee” to keep the rate. There is a “for further detail see the cardmember agreement”. Now, if that in conjuction with the “we may change the terms at any time for any reason clause” implies that this montly fee is legal, then the banks can do virtually anything they want (why not a $100 montly fee?).

The courts will decide the legality, but is this “banking in a responsible manner”? Obviously not I say. I will never dare to borrow money from Chase ever again for fear that they rip me off by changing the fine print. Also, I think consumers who contact their representatives in congress to urge a stop to these predatory lending practices are doing the right thing. And, yes, I am hoping that the class action suits will become a major headache for Chase.

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