'Balance Transfer Day' tied to credit card site

NEW YORK (AP) — Be careful how you express your frustration with corporate America — especially if you're making a statement with your money.

A new Facebook page called "Balance Transfer Day" is urging fans to send a message to big banks by applying for credit cards with lower interest rates this Sunday. But the man behind the call to action is also the editor-in-chief of a website that profits off credit card applications.

The founder of Balance Transfer Day, Michael Germanovsky, says his online activism is separate from his editorial role at Credit-Land.com. He also notes that he doesn't promote the website on Balance Transfer Day's Facebook or Twitter accounts.

"It came about because I studied personal finance," Germanovsky said.

The appearance of a conflict of interest is nevertheless a reminder to think twice before supporting causes or hitting the "like" button on Facebook, particularly at a time when an idea can catch fire through social media in a flash and the links between various causes can be easily blurred.

For instance, it would be easy for a visitor to Balance Transfer Day's Facebook page to confuse it with last month's Bank Transfer Day, which sprang to life after Bank of America said it would start charging customers $5 a month for debit card purchases.

In addition to echoing its name, Balance Transfer Day uses a similar image of Guy Fawkes on its Facebook profile. The English revolutionary's grinning mask also became popular with the Occupy Wall Street protests — another movement Balance Transfer Day emulates online.

In addition to "like"-ing dozens of local Occupy groups on Facebook, Balance Transfer Day's Twitter account is branded as OCCUPYBankrate.

Yet Balance Transfer Day isn't related to either of those movements.

Aiming to benefit from confusion is a common tactic; in times of major natural disasters, for example, questionable organizations often spring up with names that sound similar to legitimate fundraising groups.

A message left with Roman Shteyn, the owner of Credit-Land.com, was not returned.

Support for Balance Transfer Day is limited, with only about 600 Facebook supporters on Tuesday, compared with the more than 79,000 supporters Bank Transfer Day had on the eve of its designated day of action.

So far, Balance Transfer Day has already succeeded in getting coverage by several media outlets, including the ABC News and Time's Moneyland websites and The Huffington Post.

A freelance writer for Credit-Land.com has also published a story about Balance Transfer Day in The Huffington Post.

That story did not disclose the links between Credit-Land.com and Balance Transfer Day. It quotes a spokesperson for the effort as saying Balance Transfer Day will be staged "every month, until rates go down."

"Our call for action will also be a reminder to do another balance transfer when those who joined us on Dec. 11 can send another message of protest when their introductory offer expires," the spokesperson says.

That wouldn't be the smartest financial move for any cardholder — although it would benefit a website that profits off credit card applications. A representative for the Huffington Post noted that the Credit-Land.com writer is "one of thousands of contributors to our group blog" and said blog editors would be notified of the failure to disclose the site's ties to Balance Transfer Day.

The Balance Transfer Day Facebook page states that those who participate "will send a message to banks that we are fed up with outrageously high APRs and no longer willing to accept these costly rates."

But before you fight the power — in this case, by applying for a credit card — consider the sources behind the call to action.

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Candice Choi can be reached at www.twitter.com/candicechoi .

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