Advanta Settles Credit Card Rate Suits
Advanta Corp. won a Delaware judge’s approval of a settlement worth as much as $11.65 million to end consumer fraud lawsuits alleging that the home equity and mortgage lender illegally raised interest rates on credit cards. The settlement calls for Advanta to pay $7.25 million to former and current holders of its “SmartMove” credit cards who paid as much as 17% in interest under an unexpected rate hike, court papers show. The cards were touted as carrying a guaranteed rate as low as 9.9%, the lawsuits claimed. Spring House, Pa.-based Advanta also is dropping the interest on the SmartMove cards to the advertised rates, which will wipe out another $4.4 million in interest cardholders would have paid under the higher rate, lawyers said. The company has acknowledged that more than 88,000 SmartMove cardholders were charged extra interest between May 1996 and September 1997 due to the unexpected rate hike. Advanta executives weren’t immediately available to comment on the decision. The settlement ends all litigation over Advanta’s SmartMove program, including suits filed in federal courts around the U.S. that have been consolidated in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. The settlement also encompasses state court suits that have been filed in California and elsewhere.