In a new twist on teaser rates, Chevy Chase Savings Bank of Maryland has brought out a credit card that ratchets up the interest in three stages.
Robert Skolnick, executive vice president of BAI Mail Monitor, a credit card tracking firm in Tarrytown, N.Y., said that he has spotted only a handful of similar offers within the past year.
Chevy Chase is targeting consumers who don't pay their credit card bills in full each month with a balance transfer offer set at the prime rate, 8.75%, for three months.
During that period cardholders are charged 10.9% for new purchases. After the introductory period expires, it rises to 10.9% for another three months. Then the rate spikes to 18.65% for gold cards and 19.65% for classic cards.
Neither card has an annual fee.
Mr. Skolnick questioned whether consumers would find Chevy Chase's proposition appealing. According to research completed by his firm, consumers want credit cards that are easy to understand. "Tiering the interest rate complicates the offer," he said.
Michael Auriemma, president of Auriemma Consulting Group Inc., Westbury, N.Y., went a step further.
"Blurring the issue of pricing is not going to help the industry gain credibility," he said.
Chevy Chase, like many issuers, does not promote the final interest rate in the initial cover letter addressed to the consumer.
This tiered-rate product has the potential to confuse consumers, Mr. Auriemma argued, because they might believe after reading the letter that the rate only goes up to 10.9%.
"If you see two rates in a letter, it is natural to assume that the second rate is the "go to" rate," he said.
Dennis C. Moroney, senior vice president of Chevy Chase, disagreed. "Consumers will be angry with us if they feel we have confused them, so it isn't in our best interest to cause confusion."
He said that Chevy Chase has been testing the product for several months and has not encountered problems. Ultimately, he said, the market will dictate whether the product needs to be adjusted.
Chevy Chase's other notable card product is a Rolling Stones affinity card that offers cardholders discounts and special offers at major music stores.