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Americans Can't Understand their Credit Card Agreements

Frequent Contributor

Americans Can't Understand their Credit Card Agreements

The saddest part of this article is the information on the American reading level.

 

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/cant-understand-your-credit-card-agreement-youre-not-alone/




Message 1 of 11
10 REPLIES
Established Contributor

Re: Americans Can't Understand their Credit Card Agreements

As they say "a fool and his money are soon parted", I have no doubts that banks capitalize on the "dumbing down of America". Sad but considering the current affairs of this country I'm not overly shocked...I could go on...
Message 2 of 11
Super Contributor

Re: Americans Can't Understand their Credit Card Agreements

I don't see the correlation between reading level and number of words.  The article suggests that the higher the reading level, the higher the number of words.  There are plenty of short passages in life that are difficult reads and plenty of long ones that are simple reads.

 

Another thing, IMO the problem isn't people understanding what they are reading, it's them reading it at all the majority of the time.  If someone reads at a 9th grade level (however that is determined anyway) but reads a CC agreement that's written at an 11th grade level, IMO they are going to comprehend the vast majority of it.  Sure there may be a few words here and there that the reader is unfamiliar with, but as with reading at any level one can infer the meanings of things they don't know based on the context of the rest of the sentence.

 

Think about it this way:  Who is going to understand their CC agreement more.  Guy 1 that doesn't read it or Guy 2 that does read it but reads at a slightly "lower" level than the level that it was written at?  The problem, IMO, is that most people don't even read it to begin with.  I can use myself as an example of this as at best I've simply skimmed the agreements and only thoroughly read the parts that mattered to me.

 

Another thing, I think it's a large generalization that people read at a level a few years below the highest level of school they completed.  As with just about every skill in life, reading is something people get better at with practice.  If you have two individuals with the same exact education level from the same school and everything is equal and one has read 2 books a week for the last 10 years and the other has read nothing other than a magazine article once every 6 months while in the waiting room at the dentist, I'd bet my kids life that the individual that's read over 1000 books at this point is going to be reading at a significantly higher level simply based on the fact that he's practiced the skill far more even though both individuals are equally educated.

 

 

Message 3 of 11
Frequent Contributor

Re: Americans Can't Understand their Credit Card Agreements

I believe the article refers to the language of a typical agreement.  MS Word for example can analyse the reading level based on word usage, sentence length and complexity.  Most agreements are very specific and legalistic and are designed to be difficult to understand by the common man.  Lawyers are very strict and anal with language, not only does one need to be able to understand how the language is being used but the definitions of legal language.  One almost needs a law degree to truly understand the ramifications. I think lawyers think it is fun to be exclusionary in the ability to undstand their legal babble. 

 

My feelings for lawyers can be summed up in my take on the old joke:  "What do you call 5,000 lawyers at the bottom of the ocean?  A POOR start!"


Starting Score: 732 October 2007; Current Score: EQ 835; TU 863, April 2018; Oldest Reporting EQ Account: 16.3 years; EQ AAoA: 8.2 years; Typical credit utilization 1.8% typical single card utilization 10.6%
Message 4 of 11
Regular Contributor

Re: Americans Can't Understand their Credit Card Agreements

I don't know if there is anything really new here. I remember years ago reading about the grade level many publications were written at. For example, the average US newspaper was written at the 6th grade level. I'm sure that the language of credit card agreements could be simplified, but I really wonder if people would read them if they were? I admit I haven't read one in full for many years. I just skim them, perhaps the next time I apply, I will read it, but I won't be applying for a 5/3 card, that's for sure.

Message 5 of 11
Moderator

Re: Americans Can't Understand their Credit Card Agreements


Roarmeister wrote:

I believe the article refers to the language of a typical agreement.  MS Word for example can analyse the reading level based on word usage, sentence length and complexity.  Most agreements are very specific and legalistic and are designed to be difficult to understand by the common man.  Lawyers are very strict and anal with language, not only does one need to be able to understand how the language is being used but the definitions of legal language.  One almost needs a law degree to truly understand the ramifications. I think lawyers think it is fun to be exclusionary in the ability to undstand their legal babble. 

 

My feelings for lawyers can be summed up in my take on the old joke:  "What do you call 5,000 lawyers at the bottom of the ocean?  A POOR start!"


Huh, I never knew that.

 

Just ran it against the essays I wrote for my Sociology class: apparently I got it nearly right with a 12th grade level and a reading ease score in the 30's on both which equates to "college."

 

May start using that for things in my professional life too when I have to write documentation, thanks senor!

 

On topic: I'm not surprised by the CCA's not being understood: when I have read them, it's an ordeal and my reading level is substantially above the average.  To BBS's point though, I do skip them sometimes.  

Starting Score: EQ 5 561, TU 98 567, EX 2 599 (12/30/11)
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Message 6 of 11
Frequent Contributor

Re: Americans Can't Understand their Credit Card Agreements

Actually, I've heard that it is best to aim for an 8th grade reading level and 60-70 Flesch Reading Ease score so that the maximum number of people can understand the article.  A higher reading level will have longer word length and longer sentence length.  A 12th grade reading level and 30-40 reading ease score may be fine for a technical university paper but don't expect the common man to understand you.

 

"If your Flesch-Kincaid level is too high and your content is too hard to read, users will quickly leave your document in search of another. On the other hand, if your content goes too far in the other direction and scores a very low grade level, users may find it too simple and a waste of their time. It may come across as lacking in value and worthy of only a quick read-through before they move on with their search. Both of these things will give your document a high bounce-rate, leaving you with users that aren’t engaging with your content."

 

P.S. This post has a Flesch Reading ease of 59 and Flesch-Kincaid Reading Level of 11.1  Smiley LOL


Starting Score: 732 October 2007; Current Score: EQ 835; TU 863, April 2018; Oldest Reporting EQ Account: 16.3 years; EQ AAoA: 8.2 years; Typical credit utilization 1.8% typical single card utilization 10.6%
Message 7 of 11
Super Contributor

Re: Americans Can't Understand their Credit Card Agreements

So to summarize the above, the real problem is people not reading it in the first place (either deeming it too difficult or too easy) not that they are reading it and not understanding it.

Message 8 of 11

Re: Americans Can't Understand their Credit Card Agreements

Crap the article is written at a 11th grade level and I can't read it lol

I skim and get the general idea of my CCA.  I concern myself with annual fee (I only have $0), interest and rewards.  I do look over the fees but I don't pay late.  

Message 9 of 11
Highlighted
Frequent Contributor

Re: Americans Can't Understand their Credit Card Agreements


BrutalBodyShots wrote:

So to summarize the above, the real problem is people not reading it in the first place (either deeming it too difficult or too easy) not that they are reading it and not understanding it.



Which is related to the reading ease.  If a document is intimidating to read it simply won't be read.  Make the document friendlier and more people would actually read it.

 


Starting Score: 732 October 2007; Current Score: EQ 835; TU 863, April 2018; Oldest Reporting EQ Account: 16.3 years; EQ AAoA: 8.2 years; Typical credit utilization 1.8% typical single card utilization 10.6%
Message 10 of 11