Credit Card Protections in Effect
[Via – ConsumerReports]
Today the bulk of the consumer protections of the Credit Card Act of 2009 go into effect. They usher in some strong protections, but also leave some things undone. Some benefits: an end to overlimit fees, more advanced notice of changes to your account with the right to opt out, no fees for paying online or over the phone, no increases in the interest rate on existing balances unless you’re 60 days late, and new protections for students and consumers under age 21. However, here’s a couple examples of the good and bad of certain provisions of the legislation:
The upside: Any new cards issued after Feb. 22 can’t have their interest rate raised for one year unless you’re 60 days late with your payment.
The downside: After a year, credit card companies can still boost your interest rates to whatever they feel like, and anyone who opened a card before Feb. 22 isn’t covered by this protection. Plus, the one-year freeze on interest rates doesn’t apply if you have a variable rate card, and the index that the card’s rate is based on (such as the prime rate) goes up. With interest rates at rock bottom, you can expect rates to naturally trickle up over the next couple years.
The upside: Card issuers must notify you 45 days before making any major changes to your account.
The downside: Your card company can still close your account or cut your credit limit without notifying you. And though your card issuer will have to give 45 days notice before they apply a new rate to future purchases, that new rate will apply to all purchases made 14 days after the notice is sent out. So consumers must read their mail and stop using that card after 14 days if they don’t want the new rate to apply to their purchases.
Here’s some tips for negotiating the new card rules and a comprehensive list of the new protections from the Defend Your Dollars blog, run by Consumers Union – the nonprofit publisher of Consumer Reports. Also, the Federal Reserve just launched an interactive site with info on the new consumer protections as well as some general advice on reading card offers as well as sample letters to help you handle disputes with your card issuer.—Chris Fichera