Citigroup holds its customers hostage

Across the nation, Citibank credit card holders are receiving what pretty much amounts to a ransom note: We're going to raise your rates, says the letter, in so many words, but if you spend more money, we won't.

In more specific terms, customers are being asked to spend a minimum of $750 on their cards, and if they do, they can get a rebate for 50% to 100% of their interest rate for that given month.

I can't blame anyone for wanting to implode on the spot. After all, credit cards as a group used to encourage everyone to spend, until the recession came around, when the message seemed to be -- please don't spend, and if you spend, don't spend much. But now the credit cards are encouraging spending.

And if you don't, they'll raise your rates.

Madness.

But there's a reason behind it. Ben Woolsey, director of consumer research for CreditCards.com, told the Huffington Post that Citigroup, which is Citibank's parent company, by convincing people to spend more, will cause there to be more interchange fees -- those are the fees merchants have to pay every time a customer uses a credit or debit card. And so Citigroup will make more money through interchange fees, or through the higher interest rates.