The Perils Of Plastic

It's getting tougher for credit-card issuers to turn a profit

After getting a couple of low-rate credit-card offers each week for months, Saundra Williams decided last fall to see if she could do better than the 18.5% annual interest rate on her cards. When she called to bargain, she thought she was doing well when Citibank promptly offered her a menu of fixed or variable rates, including a nifty 10.9%. But Bank of America did even better, slashing her rate to 9.9% and hiking her credit line to boot. "I was astounded at all of the options they offered me," says Williams, an assistant professor at North Carolina State University in Raleigh. "I never heard of negotiating a rate."

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