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When green banking is less than good

Jeremy Simon

United States banks are busy promoting products and practices that (at first glance) seem to be good for both the earth and their customers. Paperless statements, credit cards that give back to the earth and special loans for hybrid vehicles are all available. However, a recent MarketWatch article expresses skepticism as to whether these “green” initiatives are in fact smart choices for consumers.

“Many of these efforts definitely are moves in the right direction amid increased concern over global warming, worsening weather and the high price and emissions of gas,” MarketWatch says. “Besides saving the environment, green banking can save banks and customers hefty costs in postage, paper and time.”

So what’s the problem? Evidently, environmental and cost savings alone don’t automatically make all green initiatives a great idea for consumers. “A credit card, even if it’s green, may entice you further into debt,” MarketWatch says. It also notes that hybrid vehicle loan rates may have floors (or minimum interest rates), according to Informa Research, which could limit a borrower’s savings as interest rates decline.

Meanwhile, opting out of paper records could spell trouble when documentation becomes necessary in instances of fraud or account error. Although individuals can hang onto their old paper banking statements and receipts, banks must only maintain a customer’s records for 12 months, the National Consumer Law Center’s Lauren Saunders tells MarketWatch.

Still, MarketWatch shouldn’t worry that banking customers are too often putting the earth’s health before their own financial needs: A national survey commissioned by CreditCards.com in April 2008 showed more than half of those polled said they wouldn’t want to change their credit card behavior to be more environmentally conscious. It seems saving green still matters more to most people than being green.

See related: Banks that go green, Green credit cards reward the environment, Survey: U.S. not very eco-friendly with credit cards, 10 ways to go green with credit cards, Teaching old credit cards new tricks, Spin the Green-O-Meter

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Prefer pink to green? Then take a look at the June 23 edition of the Carnival of Credit Report Stories hosted by My Beauty and Fashion. My blog entry, “TransUnion settlement sign-up period begins,” was deemed pretty enough for inclusion.

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