13 Things Credit Card Companies Know About You That Might Make You Cringe

How you wield that little piece of plastic can reveal how well you care for your home, the state of your marriage, whether you're a customer worth keeping ... and a lot more.

You're having marital problems

Srege Bloch for Reader's Digest

Most credit card companies comb through cardholder data for signs of financial trouble, and we may use that to lower your credit. A Federal Trade Commission suit against CompuCredit, which marketed the Visa Aspire card, accused the company of lowering available credit to customers who used cards for marriage counseling, bars, or pawnshops.

You don't have the best manners

If you call even one time and get angry or use profanity, we may put a note on your account that you are a "verbally abusive" caller. Every time you call in after that, the customer-service rep will be on guard.

What you did last summer (and the summer before that)

We track your favorite places to visit. We also know your top ATMs and when you normally log in to your mobile app. Paying attention to those things is one of the ways we catch fraud.

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Whether you take good care of your home.

One study found that people who buy carbon monoxide monitors and pads for chair bottoms rarely miss payments. If you protect your things, you may also want to protect your credit score.

Where you are at this very moment

If you've enabled location-based services in your card's app, we can follow your movements around town and send coupons for nearby merchandise. With new tracking technology, we hope to soon follow you inside a store to record how long you spend in each aisle.

You're the boss.

If a responsible customer asks for a lower interest rate, there's a good chance we will say yes. A Synergistics survey found that 78 percent of cardholders who asked for a lower rate received one.

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You're a small-business owner.

We love small-business owners. They tend to make a lot of purchases and rack up charges on their cards. Sometimes we buy lists of new limited liability companies and corporations so we can send them business credit card offers.

You're due for a shopping trip at Target.

We work with marketers to create special offers for you based on your purchases. If you were a regular shopper at Target but haven't been back in a while, a digital coupon from Target may pop up in your bank’s mobile app (or from a competitor trying to lure you away).

Whether you're worth hanging on to.

When you call customer service, the reps at some companies see a green or red indicator on their screen based on your risk score. That tells them whether to try to keep you as a customer.

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What your signature looks like.

If you're not sure a charge is legitimate, most credit card companies can send you a copy of the receipt.

You're clueless about your card's benefits.

Many cards offer perks such as rental-car insurance, trip-cancellation insurance, and even a personal concierge, but you probably don’t know about them if you haven't read the fine print.

You talk too much.

To build rapport with customers, we often train customer-service reps to stay on the phone as long as the customers want. Some lonely ones stay on the line for more than an hour.

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You're about to cancel.

We analyze data to flag you if you haven't been using your card or there are other signs you might close your account. We may send you a promotion in an attempt to keep you.


Sources: Bill McCracken, CEO of Synergistics Research Corporation, a financial research company; Bert Ely, a banking consultant based in Alexandria, Virginia; David Wallace, global financial services marketing manager at SAS, a data analytics firm; Paul Stephens, director of policy and advocacy for the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse; a former credit card customer-service manager; a credit card customer-service representative; a senior fraud consultant; nytimes.com

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