Category Archives: Credit Card Companies and High Interest Rates

Why Are Credit Card Interest Rates So High?


There are price gouging laws in time of emergencies to not allow improper increases in price to make money. There are state usury laws limiting how much interest can be charged when lending money. Why are credit card interest rates so high? How can a bank charge 29% interest on a revolving unsecured credit account? It is like loan sharking right? I would say yes, it is like loan sharking and it used to not possible by law for our protection. My best analogy is seatbelt laws. Seatbelt laws save lives. This is a fact and without seatbelt laws requiring wearing seatbelts not as many people would wear seatbelts and vehicle deaths would be higher. Well, The Supreme Court of the United States more or less opened the door to the repeal of seatbelt laws regarding limits on interest rates and people have been getting killed with credit card interest rates ever since. We all need to be saved from ourselves sometimes and our laws protect us. So what happened?

State Usury Laws

First let us talk about state usury laws. Each state can have usury laws limiting how much interest can be charged under different types of financial transactions. Over time many exceptions and loopholes have been created to allow lenders in different forms of loans to charge ridiculously high interest rates. See our other bankruptcy attorney articles about 1,000% interest title loans and payday loans. Somehow these horrible loans are legal though . . . . Below are the various sections of law in California that make up California usury laws. Generally, and very generally, 10% is the highest interest rate under California usury laws depending upon the type of financial transaction.

California Const. Art. XV §1
California Civil Code §§1912-1916.12
California Civil Code §§1916-1 to 1916-3
California Civil Code §§1917-1917.006
California Civil Code §§1917.060-1917.069
California Civil Code §§1917.160-1917.168
California Civil Code §§1917.610-1917.619
California Commercial Code §§9201-9208
California Corporations Code §§25116-25118
California Financial Code §§22000-22064
California Government Code §§5900-5909

Why Are Credit Card Interest Rates So High?

If there is state usury laws limiting the amount of interest that can be charged how can banks charge 29% interest on a credit card debt? The case is Marquette National Bank v. First of Omaha Corporation, 439 U.S. 299 (1978). Somewhere there is a bankruptcy attorney, not this one, cheering for these high interest rates given unmanageable debts drive bankruptcy filings. “The First National Bank of Omaha (Omaha Bank) is a national banking association chartered in Nebraska; it is enrolled in the BankAmericard plan, and solicits for that plan in Minnesota. Omaha Bank charges its Minnesota cardholders interest on their unpaid balances at a rate permitted by Nebraska law, but in excess of that permitted by Minnesota law.” So there you go. First National Bank of Omaha solicited clients in the state of Minnesota but chose not follow Minnesota state law regarding interest rates. First National Bank of Omaha charged higher interest rates according to the law in which they were located, the state of Nebraska. What should be controlling was the issue? Generally speaking the law of the jurisdiction where the individual is located, a state or country, governs their legal rights and not the corporate headquarters or location of the business they are doing business with. Each state has usury laws to protect their state residents within that state and limit interest rates. Each state in the United States has many different laws than other states. Family law is a great example and the 8.5 community property states vs. equitable distribution in the remaining 41.5 states. Why is there a 0.5? Alaska is an opt-in community property state. Save that one for Jeopardy. Back to . First National Bank of Omaha and how they arguably disrespected the state law of Minnesota. SCOTUS provided: “Though the “exportation” of interest rates, such as occurred here, may impair the ability of States to maintain effective usury laws, such impairment has always been implicit in the National Bank Act, and any correction of that situation would have to be achieved legislatively. Pp. 439 U. S. 318-319.” So under the federal National Bank Act what The First National Bank of Omaha did was okay even though it violated the usury laws of Minnesota. There you have it and the rest is history.

But wait. What state allows interest rates of 29%? This is where capitalism and greed took over and now we have more deaths by higher interest rates than before 1978. Certain states repealed or changed their usury laws to allow for high unconscionable interest rates. These states did this to lure the big banks to set up shop in their states to create jobs in these states. Well it worked. So for a few thousand jobs millions of Americans can be charged massive interest rates that we can all agree of too high.

What is the legislative solution SCOTUS mentions in The First National Bank of Omaha? Our United States legislatures, the Senate and House of Representatives, would have to pass legislation to limit interest rates and then that would applicable nationally. Do not hold your breath given our federal legislatures chose to bailout these same banks from the mortgage meltdown. Too big to fail means too big to be honestly regulated.

How Can Credit Card Companies Charge Such High Interest Rates?


Have you ever heard of usury state laws?  Most likely you have not.  Every state can control by law the amount of interest that can be charged when money or credit is extended.  The California Code and a number of subsections govern the interest rates that can be charged in California.  Personal loans and consumer loans in California have a usury interest rate attached to these loans of 10%.  The interest rate established for non-consumer loans is 5% greater than the interest rate duly established by the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.

Again, so how can credit card companies charge such high interest rates?  The answer is the need for jobs, capitalism and Marquette National Bank v. First of Omaha Corporation, 439 U.S. 299 (1978).  This is a 1978 Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) case that led to the change in how much you pay for interest on credit card debt.  SCOTUS more or less ruled that First Omaha Corporation could charge citizens of other states the allowed interest rates for the state where First Omaha was located, not the state interest rate where the customer resides.  12 U.S.C. 85 authorizes a national banking association “to charge on any loan” interest at the rate allowed by the laws of the State “where the bank is located.  This means that First Omaha Corporation, located in the state of Nebraska, could charge the higher interest rates Nebraska state law allowed to customers they obtained in other states.

Okay, so how did this lead to 29% interest rates when most state usury laws protect us from such high interest rates?  Well, this is where the need for jobs and capitalism took over.  Guess what happened next?  Certain states really needed jobs for their residents.  The state legislatures of these certain states basically did away with their state usury laws to entice banks that issue loans and credit cards to set up shop there and give their residents jobs.  It worked really well.  South Dakota is home to thousands of jobs as of a result because banks flocked there to set up shop and charge higher interest rates to customers in other states.  South Dakota is not the only state that did this.  A few other states repealed their state usury laws limiting interest rates to attract banks too.  So, basically the rest of the millions of citizens of the United States who have credit cards can legally be charged an interest rate of 20% or more on their credit cards so that these few states could generate a mere few thousand jobs for their residents.

High credit card interest rates are one of the common reasons our bankruptcy clients speak of when explaining their reasons for choosing to file for bankruptcy protection.  Contact our bankruptcy lawyers toll free at 1-877-963-9543 to discuss your circumstances and find out if bankruptcy can help.