Sunday, June 28, 2009

Beware the New Hazards of Plastic

Beware the New Hazards of Plastic

(Source Yahoo Finance) A recent study finds that more credit card holders are being penalized by their card issuers as companies try to maximize profits and bring balance sheets in line ahead of a law banning unfair practices.

The ink is barely dry on the Credit Cardholders’ Bill of Rights Act, signed by President Obama in May, but the legislation doesn’t take effect until February 2010. According to the June survey of 1,000 consumers by, a card-comparison and informational Web site, one-third of respondents said their card company made one or some combination of changes to their accounts:

* 19 percent said the card’s interest rose (up from 15 percent in a February survey);
* 14 percent said fees increased;
* 14 percent said the firm lowered their credit limit (up from 8 percent in February);
* 12 percent said their minimum payment increased;
* and 9 percent said their rewards program was cut back.

“It’s certainly open season on consumers between now and when the law goes into effect in February,” says Adam Levin, co-founder of and a former director of the New Jersey Department of Consumer Affairs. “There may be fee increases that are purely front-running of the law, and you could also have consumers who have run into problems because of the economy.”

Americans carry about $850 billion in credit card debt, which translates to about $17,000 for the roughly 50 million households that don’t pay their credit card balances in full every month, according to the Consumer Federation of America. Among other provisions, the new law prohibits retroactive interest rate increases on existing balances unless a consumer is 60 days late with a payment; bans “universal default” clauses, in which credit card companies raise their rates because the consumer is late paying another creditor; and eliminates over-limit fees, unless the consumer has specifically opted in to allow over-limit transactions. Read article Linda Rowley...
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