Thank You for Paying More Interest

Times Staff and Wire Reports

"Our best customers deserve recognition," said a letter from First Interstate Bank. As a way of saying "thank you," the bank recently sent hefty checks (we saw one for $2,000) to 100,000 of its best credit card customers.

"Please cash or deposit promptly," the letter advised.

Hopefully, First Interstate's customers delayed long enough to read the rest of the letter. Turns out the check is not a gift but a loan. When people cash it, the amount of the check is added to their credit card account balance.

First Interstate Vice President Teresa G. Denison said the offer seemed to go well, though some customers were confused by it. "They thought we were actually giving them money," she said.

Imagine that.

Ken McEldowney of Consumer Action said the offer benefits First Interstate because the bank will collect interest on the credit card loans. Customers end up more deeply in debt.

McEldowney suggests that if First Interstate wants to thank its customers (before it is merged into Wells Fargo), it should send fruit baskets.

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