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Resources & Tools

The Credit CARD Act 101

On May 22, 2009, President Obama signed the Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility, and Disclosure (CARD) Act into law. Also known as the Credit Reform Bill or the Credit Card Bill of Rights, this bill takes huge steps toward defining and protecting credit cardholder rights. The new rules were put into full effect in February 2010.  The main focus is in the areas of billing, rate increases, the discretion of giving credit, and advanced notice of account changes.

What your creditors must tell you:

Your credit card company must give you 45 days’ notice before your interest rate is increased, or any other major change occurs.  This includes the terms of your agreement and any changes to fees.  They also have to tell you how long it will take to pay off your balance.  This will be now be seen on your credit card statements each month.  The statement will still contain the standard information, such as the balance, minimum payment, and due date.  However, it will also display “scenarios” to help you better understand the long-term implications of your credit card debt.  It will tell you how long it will take, and how much it will cost to pay off the debt if you only make minimum payments each month.  It will also show you a similar scenario, comparing the cost and time to pay off the debt if you make higher payments.

There are still some things that your creditors don’t have to tell you.  They do not have to tell you that your rate will increase if you have a variable rate tied to an index.  Your rate will fluctuate based on that index.  Also, if you have a temporary introductory rate, then you will not be notified when that rate expires.  Upon expiration, that rate will revert to a previously agreed upon “go-to” rate, so you should already be aware that it will happen.  If you have worked out an agreement with your creditor to pay off a debt and you miss a payment, then they can increase your rate without notice.

Who gets credit:

In an effort to protect consumers from obtaining credit that they cannot repay, the CARD Act calls for creditors to consider the borrower’s ability to repay before issuing a card.  Each creditor will likely have their own prerequisites.  There is also a rule to protect young consumers.  No one under the age of 21 can obtain a credit card without a cosigner, or proof of ability to repay.  If a cosigner is attached to an account, only he/she can approve an increased credit limit.  This is clearly an effort to deter young consumers from spending their way into credit card debt at a young age.

(continue on to The Credit Card Act: New Rules)…

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