Credit: The Lure of Instant Cash

Money may be tight in the U.S., but across the country millions of people are finding their mailboxes crammed with unsolicited applications for bank credit cards that promise, among many other things, instant loans of up to $500. The card craze has spread as banks have intensified attempts to expand in the consumer credit field, which can be enormously profitable. Banks often earn a true annual interest of 18% on merchandise charged on the credit cards, and 12% to 24% on the "instant money" that a customer can borrow upon presenting his...

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