Advanta Corp. said yesterday that it expected to move up the date after which its customers would no longer be able to use their credit cards, to next Saturday from June 10.
The Spring House company, which specializes in credit cards for small businesses, said last week that it was freezing nearly one million accounts to cut its losses and preserve its capital reserves.
That move was described by industry analysts as unprecedented and indicative of severe financial stress. Earlier this year, the company eliminated 300 jobs, or a third of its workforce, and cut its dividend 88 percent. It posted a first-quarter loss of $75 million, compared with a profit of $18 million in the same quarter last year.
Advanta's customers defaulted last month at a rate of 20.15 percent, compared with 17.31 percent in March, the company said Monday in a regulatory filing related to the Advanta Business Card Master Trust, which bundles Advanta's small-business loans for sale to investors.
Outstanding credit-card balances at the end of April were $4.5 billion. The company hopes customers will pay off their balances, but it is not clear what business Advanta will have after that.
Advanta customers contacted this week said the company still had not notified them of the cutoff.
"I was just on the phone with one of their representatives last week discussing payments, and they didn't even mention this," Jennifer Duff of Exton said yesterday, referring to the account closures. "It's ridiculous."
Advanta said in yesterday's Securities and Exchange Commission filing that it would contact customers "in accordance with applicable requirements." The company did not respond to a request for details.
While many Advanta customers have expressed outrage at the way the company has treated them in the past - for example, boosting interest rates from 7.9 percent to the high 20s or even 30s in recent months - Duff said she had had a good experience with Advanta until now.
"They have worked with us for years," said Duff, who with her husband owns rental properties and a remodeling business. "They were flexible. They were very understanding because they targeted small business."
Duff said she had not started looking for a replacment card. "Given the current economy, I'm not hopeful we'll be able to get anything."