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Credit Card Changes and Laws Now Enforced

January 25, 2010

Did you know your credit card rights were changing?

Protection From Arbitrary Rate Increases

Credit card companies are now required to provide cardholders with a minimum 45-day notice on any interest rate increase, allowing consumers enough time to consider their options. Additionally, most promotional APRs will be required to last for a minimum of 6 months.

The Right to Have Rates Reviewed and Reduced

Issuers are required to review APRs of all accounts every 6 months to see if a reduction in APR is warranted.

No Universal Default

Drawing on credit reports from other issuers, credit card companies used to be able to raise interest rates to the default rate if the cardholder defaulted on another credit card. Now, they can only focus on the cardholder’s payment record concerning their particular card.
No double-cycle billing

Double-cycle billing allows for credit card companies to compute finance charges based on more than one billing cycle. Thus cardholders are penalized for carrying a balance in past months even if they paid off their balance in the most recent month. Credit card companies will now be prohibited from using this double-cycle billing practice.
No fees for paying your bill

Many credit card companies currently charge a $5-15 surcharge if a payment is made over the phone instead of online or by mail. This part of the legislation ensures that, when using regular processing service, there will be no such fees. However, issuers will still be able to charge for expedited service via phone or mail.
Protection from due date gimmicks

Payments made by a cardholder by 5 P.M. EST on the due date would be considered on time, and protect consumers from unnecessary late payment fees and possible interest rate increases.

Education on Dangers of Minimum Payments

Currently, issuers do not educate cardholders that how they pay off their balances (i.e. minimum balance vs. full balance) affects their financial standing in the long run. The new laws would require quarterly reports that disclose the time and interest costs to pay off credit card balances, if the consumer only pays the required minimum.
Protection of young cardholders

In the past, young cardholders were drawn into attractive introductory offers only to find that they are unable to pay off their bills. Now those under 21 can only get a credit card in two ways: (1) have a qualified co-signer, or (2) prove they have the ability to repay their credit card. In addition, issuers will no longer be able to offer tangible gifts on college campuses. Finally, issuers offering college-specific cards will have to report their contracts with universities regularly for federal government review.

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