Delinquent: Inside America's Debt Machine

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Univ of California Press, Oct 11, 2022 - Business & Economics - 320 pages
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A consumer credit industry insider-turned-outsider explains how banks lure Americans deep into debt, and how to break the cycle.
 
Delinquent takes readers on a journey from Capital One’s headquarters to street corners in Detroit, kitchen tables in Sacramento, and other places where debt affects people's everyday lives. Uncovering the true costs of consumer credit to American families in addition to the benefits, investigative journalist Elena Botella—formerly an industry insider who helped set credit policy at Capital One—reveals the underhanded and often predatory ways that banks induce American borrowers into debt they can’t pay back.
 
Combining Botella’s insights from the banking industry, quantitative data, and research findings as well as personal stories from interviews with indebted families around the country, Delinquent provides a relatable and humane entry into understanding debt. Botella exposes the ways that bank marketing, product design, and customer management strategies exploit our common weaknesses and fantasies in how we think about money, and she also demonstrates why competition between banks has failed to make life better for Americans in debt. Delinquent asks: How can we make credit available to those who need it, responsibly and without causing harm? Looking to the future, Botella presents a thorough and incisive plan for reckoning with and reforming the industry.
 

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Contents

How the Machine Was Built
17
The Debtor Class
55
figures
59
Percent of US Adults with Credit Card Debt by Household
98
A Broken Net
102
The Quickest Levers
118
Divergent
177
Effective Credit Card Interest Rate vs Bank Profits
178
A Fair Deal
188
The Last Frontier
211
Transformational Lending
223
Acknowledgments
241
Advice for Consumers
249
Notes
259
Index
293
Copyright

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About the author (2022)

Elena Botella was a Senior Business Manager at Capital One, where she ran the company's Secured Card credit card and taught credit risk management. Her writing has appeared in The New Republic, Slate, American Banker, and The Nation.

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