Visa knows if you’re going to get a divorce. It knows that you just moved and, most importantly, it knows if you’re going to miss a payment—maybe before you do. Credit card companies have developed eerily accurate models for predicting consumer behavior based on the things they buy, the Daily Beast explains. “Card companies don’t really care about divorce in and of itself—they care whether you’re going to pay your card off,” explains one law professor.
People who buy cheap motor oil or drink in certain bars are considered risky borrowers, whereas people who buy carbon monoxide detectors and premium birdseed tend to pay on time. When American Express offered some customers $300 to close their accounts last year, it used this kind of data to pick its targets. And if the company predicts a major life change, like a move or divorce, it alerts marketing partners, so they can sell you things like furniture and home refurbishing services. (Read more credit card stories.)