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April 15, 2011

In math we trust: the analytical secrets of credit card companies


I have a heightened sensibility when it comes to recognizing the use of data mining and analytics.  Having studied computer science in college, I am fairly knowledgeable of those disciplines. So it was no coincidence that I was able to draw attention to the ill-conceived data mining practices of American Express.  Ultimately, my public relations salvo against American Express was not about me being a victim; instead, it was about the credit card company understanding the need to change its algorithm.

I am not sure whether American Express made any adjustments as a result of my efforts and the ensuing public outrage—it said it did—but I do believe that all credit card companies learned a sobering lesson: Mathematical models built on dubious assumptions can and do backfire.  In fact, one of the reasons I think my story was so popular—and continues to be today—is that the current economic crisis occurred, in large part, due to our increased reliance on and faith in esoteric and erroneous mathematical models.

During the height of my notoriety, I received hundreds of e-mails from concerned consumers, asking me and giving me insider information about how these models and algorithms work.  I responded to each inquiry and often posted these responses in detail on my blog.  However, I have never delved into the mathematical concepts of data analysis with an emphasis on how a credit card company might use them. Well, not until now. 

My desire to explain some basic methodologies and models on this blog comes from the realization that we live in an increasingly data-driven society.  From internet searches to phone records, from credit card purchases to tax returns, companies have access to huge data sets which enable them to, in many cases, know us better than we know ourselves. The access to and interpretation of such data empowers companies beyond belief. This tremendous power should go neither unchecked nor overlooked, especially by the very consumers who are often the subjects of its manipulation. 

The next few posts will introduce you to the world of analytics.  They will give you confidence to challenge its applications and assumptions.  But most importantly, they will help you gain more control over your destiny, which is increasingly determined by the use of mathematical formulas.


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I found your blog extremely useful. There is still a great credit freeze and banks are not lending money to the middle class. Their lending practices are absurd and Americans are working hard and not able to purchase a home in return. There are also great issues in collection practices. I have been harassed by credit collection agencies for accounts I am not responsible for - their practices are in large part illegal, and they can ruin your credit. I purchased 3 books on the topic. I think there is a great deal of help you can offer to Americans seeking credit. Perhaps you can offer credit counseling? Maybe pitch your story to news channels or national newspapers and get a little segment? Consumers often feel as if they have done something wrong, when the truth is that the banks and their affiliated organizations can be crooked and unjust. It helps consumers to know they are not alone.

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When is the series coming?

i'm looking forward to it. awesome job kevin.

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About Me

Greetings! I’m Kevin D. Johnson, a business owner who has recently assumed the role of consumer advocate and internet activist. Atlanta, Georgia is my home.

My Story

Upon returning from my wonderful honeymoon in Jamaica in October 2008, I received what I thought was an ordinary American Express bill, but to my surprise it was a disappointing letter informing me that my credit line was reduced by about 65% for a highly suspicious and discriminatory reason. Considering my excellent credit score and pristine payment history, it just didn’t make sense. However, what does make sense are the unfair and insidious policies that I have uncovered when asking why. It is time to change them.

Good Morning America tells my story.

The Goal

I created this web site to document and share my challenging journey to change what is wrong, unfair, and unjust in the credit card industry. The ultimate goal of this web site is to inform consumers of ways to stand up for themselves against treacherous business practices and to educate consumers about how to improve their credit. Finally, I hope to encourage a more open dialogue with credit card companies about their policies–good and bad.


I am proud to say that this blog's unyielding demand for change led to an important amendment in the final Credit CARD Act signed by President Obama on May 22, 2009. Despite this major accomplishment, there is still more work to be done.

View video of bill hearing in Maryland

Testifying at a bill hearing in Annapolis, Maryland

Speaking Engagements

In an effort to educate as many people as possible about financial management, especially about how to manage the current credit crisis, I have begun to speak around the country at colleges, universities, corporations, chamber of commerce meetings, congressional hearings, trade organization meetings, etc. Having acquired a wealth of information that will help to empower people and to improve their financial future, I feel that sharing this information is the least I can do to make a positive impact. For information on my availability for speaking opportunities, please send an e-mail to Jennifer Silverman at jennifer@silvermanworldwide.com.

Speaking at a university


All information provided on NewCreditRules.com is provided for information purposes only and does not constitute or substitute for professional financial advice. Information on NewCreditRules.com is subject to change without prior notice. Although every reasonable effort is made to present current and accurate information, NewCreditRules.com makes no guarantees of any kind. This web site may contain information that is created and maintained by a variety of sources both internal and external. These sites are unmoderated forums containing the personal opinions and other expressions of the persons who post the entries. NewCreditRules.com does not control, monitor or guarantee the information contained in these sites or information contained in links to other external web sites, and does not endorse any views expressed or products or services offered therein. In no event shall NewCreditRules.com be responsible or liable, directly or indirectly, for any damage or loss caused or alleged to be caused by or in connection with the use of or reliance on any such content, goods, or services available on or through any such site or resource.

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