Gordon Hageman couldn’t believe the credit card offer he got in the mail.
"My first thought, it was a mistake," Hageman said.
The wine distributor called the number on the offer, gave them the offer code and verified his information. Sure enough, it was right: the pre-approved credit card came with a 79.9 percent APR.
Yes, 79.9 percent.
The offer is for a Premier card from First Premier Bank, which is based in South Dakota. On its Web site, First Premier says it is the country's 10th largest issuer of Visa and MasterCard credit cards. The site also says it "focuses on individuals who have less than perfect credit but are actually still creditworthy."
"I think they’re trying to take advantage of me," said Hageman.
Hageman acknowleged that his credit isn't perfect, but he said it's about average. He said the pre-approved offer didn’t mention the actual interest rate on the card -- for that, he had to read the enclosed fine-print disclosure.
"I think you’re beginning to border on deception there," San Diego State marketing professor Michael Belch said.
Belch said the card is offering a bad deal to people who are desperate.
"They're just finding different ways to gouge the consumer," Belch said.
The California Attorney General's office said there's nothing it can do about the cards since they are issued out of state and out of its jurisdiction.
A spokesman with the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) said interest rate limits on bank cards are set by the individual state and not on a federal level. According to information on the South Dakota Legislative Web site, there is "no maximum or usury restriction." In other words, the individual bank can set its own interest rate limits.
Several calls made to First Premier for a comment were not returned.