Paul Adamson, of Dundalk, Ont., was thrilled to find out that Chase Bank is forgiving him the $1,645 debt he owed on his Amazon.ca Rewards Visa card. (Submitted by Paul Adamson)
Finally, a good-news story about credit card debt.
U.S.-based Chase Bank is forgiving all outstanding debt owed by users of its two*Canadian credit*cards: the Amazon.ca Rewards Visa*and the Marriott Rewards Premier Visa. The bank retired both cards last year and said it's wiping out cardholders' debt*to complete its exit from the Canadian credit card market.
Affected customers can't believe their luck.
"I was sort of over the moon all last night, with a smile on my face," said Douglas Turner*of Coe Hill, Ont., after learning he's off the hook for the $6,157 still owing on his now-defunct Amazon Visa. "I couldn't believe it."
After 13 years in the Canadian market, Chase decided*to fold its*two*Visa*cards in March 2018.
The bank — which is part of*global financial services firm*JPMorgan Chase & Co. — wouldn't say how many Canadians had signed up for the cards or how much debt was outstanding.

Douglas Turner was still paying off what he owed on his Amazon.ca Rewards Visa card when he learned his more than $6,000 in debt had been obliterated. (Submitted by Douglas Turner)
But it*is likely that many cardholders*were still paying down their debt, including Turner.
Every month, he said he put*$300 toward his big bill, racked up by making purchases on Amazon for items such as electronics and supplies for his six dogs.
When he received*a letter from Chase this week, Turner expected bad news. "I'm thinking, 'OK, I missed a payment.'"
He instead learned that his sizeable*credit card debt had been obliterated,*and that his latest $300 payment*— submitted after Chase made its debt-forgiveness*decision*— would be reimbursed.
"It's crazy," said Turner, a 55-year-old long-haul trucker. "This stuff doesn't happen with credit cards. Credit cards are horror stories."
Based on his monthly payments and the 19.9 per cent interest rate on his card, Turner estimates he's actually saving a total of more than $7,500.
"I'm glad that it was up there," he said about his bill.
'I consider myself lucky'

Turner's good news is shared with other Canadians also celebrating their sudden reversal of fortune.
Paul Adamson, of Dundalk, Ont., first learned something was afoot*last week, when he tried to make a payment toward his Amazon Visa card —*and discovered his account had been closed.
"I called my bank a little frantic. I'm like, 'I don't want to miss a payment here,'" said the 44-year-old technical writer.
When Adamson learned*he no longer had to make payments toward his outstanding $1,645 debt in Amazon purchases, he found himself in disbelief.
"I'm honestly still so … flabbergasted about it," he said, noting*this is unusual*behaviour for a bank. "It's surprise fees, extra complications*—*things like that, definitely, but not loan forgiveness."

U.S.-based Chase Bank decided to fold its two Canadian credit cards in March 2018. Now, the firm is forgiving all outstanding debt owed by users of those cards. (Matt Rourke/The Associated Press)
Christine Langlois, of Montreal, was also surprised by the*news, especially considering she stopped making regular payments on her Amazon Visa five years ago.
"It's kind of like I'm being rewarded for my irresponsibility," said the 24-year-old university student who's being forgiven a $1,300 debt.

  • Debt Nation
    As lending gets tighter, Canadians face threat of credit card trap: Don Pittis


Langlois got her*card when she was 18*to use while travelling in the U.S., as users*weren't charged a fee for foreign currency transactions.
As*her debts piled up, Langlois*stopped making regular monthly*payments*and her credit rating took a hit.
"Every time I got a paycheque, it was like, 'OK, food or pay this credit card.'*And it was just super stressful."
But now the stress has disappeared*—*along with her*credit card debt.
"I consider myself lucky," she said. "To have it just gone, it's sort of like,*surreal."
Why did they do it?

Credit card rewards expert*Patrick Sojka said Chase likely concluded that debt forgiveness was ultimately cheaper than continuing to collect credit card payments in Canada.
"They're still probably paying taxes, paying accountants,*and*for them, they just probably worked it out and [said], 'Let's just forgive the debt and fully get out of the country.'"
But he's stumped as to why the bank didn't instead opt*to sell the debt to a third-party debt collector, which would allow Chase to recoup some cash.
"It is definitely a head-scratcher, for sure," said*Sojka, the founder of Rewards Canada, a site that tracks reward programs.

  • THE BIG OWE
    How one woman paid off $50K of credit card debt


Chase told CBC News it chose the debt-forgiveness route*so that everyone benefited.
"Ultimately, we felt it was a better decision for all parties, particularly our customers," spokesperson Maria Martinez said in an email.
Turner said*he's still confused why the*bank would care about former customers in a country where it no longer offers credit cards*—*but he's not about to quibble with Chase's decision.
"I'm not going to complain."
To note: Following the publication of this story, some readers inquired*if the lucky recipients would have to pay income tax*on the amount of debt they were forgiven.*The short answer is, they shouldn't*— as long as they used their cards for personal purchases, said*Jamie*Golombek, managing director of tax and estate planning with*CIBC.
"Think of it as a tax-free windfall," he wrote*in an email to CBC News.
However, customers who used their cards to buy items for their business may have to pay up at tax time. That's because their debt forgiveness could be viewed as income by the Canada Revenue Agency, said Golombek.**



More...