American Express (NYSE:AXP) can't seem to quit you.

Yes, you. The one who just got offered a $300 debit card in exchange for paying off your balance and canceling your account. Or maybe you aren't one of the lucky (unlucky?) ones. Either way, AmEx has decided that some of us must be gone by April 30.

Why not raise interest rates and late fees instead, you ask? Apparently, that's for lightweights like Capital One (NYSE:COF) and JPMorgan Chase (NYSE:JPM).

For its part, an AmEx spokesperson told The Wall Street Journal that the (ahem) program is targeted at "cardmembers who have sizeable balances and little spending and payment activity." Translation:

  1. They aren't generating fees.
  2. They might be at risk for default.

AmEx won't say that, of course. A spokesperson instead told the Journal that the company's intent is to "help cardholders lower their debt and encourage responsible management of their credit."

Balderdash. If American Express were really interested in helping consumers responsibly manage credit, this wouldn't be a two-month crash program. But that's what it is: Pay off your balance in a month, lose your account, get 300 bucks. As a bonus, they may even throw in a lower credit score, because your rating could take a hit as soon as your account closes.

Let's at least be honest about what this is: the corporate equivalent of a junkie trying to get clean. There's no gradual step. You just throw away the cigarettes, empty the liquor cabinet, and dump the high-risk borrowers.

That's what you do when credit-card default rates start heading the way of mortgage default rates. That's how you avoid becoming the next Citigroup (NYSE:C). Or the next Bank of America (NYSE:BAC). Or the next ... Well, you get the picture.

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