Let me give you a scenario:
Lets say you are about to sign a contract to make a big purchase. The seller presents you with one pager that highlights the bigger points of the contract. You sign on the dotted line agreeing to all of the details of the contract. A few weeks later you get the purchase in the mail along with all of the details most of which you have never seen before. You signed a contract and agreed to contract provisions that you have not even seen yet. Welcome to the wonderful world of credit cards. It has to be the only contract in the consumer world where you agree to something that you haven't even seen yet.
The card member agreement has all of the fine print in it. You don't get the opportunity to sign it until it shows up in your mail along with your new credit card. Oh but it gets better...
The credit card company doesn't have to honor that original contract. Because of language found only in the card member agreement, your contract can change without consent or notice.
Here are some samples of what you will find.
We apply payments and credits at our discretion, including in a manner most favorable or convenient for us.
CHANGE IN TERMS. You agree that the terms of this Agreement are applicable to any cardholder. You also agree that we can change the terms of this agreement at any time by adding, deleting, or modifying any provision of the Agreement. We will give you notice of any such changes, if required by law.
As total credit card debt has eclipsed 1 trillion dollars, it has become more and more dangerous to rack up credit debt. Remember the credit card companies always have the credit card agreement at their disposal to control the situation. Unfortunately, you agree to the consumer abuse when you sign the contract.