No one was more surprised than Thomas Carpenito with the credit-card invitation that landed in his mailbox earlier this year.
The 27-year-old deli owner from White Plains, N.Y., had about $10,000 in old debts and a credit rating 200 points below "good." He recalled thinking the post office had delivered the letter to the wrong house.
Far from a mistake, the offer was part of a controversial and growing partnership between debt collectors and banks that profits both. To get the new credit card, Mr. Carpenito agreed to repay $400 on a seven-year-old debt that had expired under New York's statute of limitations.
"It was totally worth it," he said. Having no credit cards made Mr. Carpenito feel "like dirt," he said, especially when out on dates. His new credit card, stamped with the MasterCard Inc. logo, was offered by Jefferson Capital Systems LLC, the debt-collection arm of CompuCredit Holdings Corp., in Atlanta.