Monday, February 22, 2010

New credit card rules in effect today

Today's a day credit card holders should celebrate. It's also one we should fear.

Strong new rules to protect consumers from predatory banks kick in today. As of now, it's illegal for your credit card to:
  • raise your interest rate for no reason;
  • raise your interest rate because you're late paying a different company;
  • raise your interest rate on new purchases in the first year you have the card;
  • play games with your monthly payment due date;
  • cut your credit limit then slap you with a penalty for going over;
  • charge you an extra fee for paying by phone or online;
  • issue cards with fees more than 25 percent of your balance.
Maybe the biggest change is that credit card companies now must tell you how long it will take you to pay off your balance if you pay the minimum. So if you're paying 18 percent on a $5,000 balance with a minimum monthly payment of $150, your lender now has to tell you that it'd take nearly four years to reach a zero balance.

Those are all good things, but now for the worrisome part: All the changes are going to cost the credit card companies billions in revenues, so they're likely to cook up some new tricks. Credit card companies are expected to keep dropping customers like they have been over the past year, to raise rates overall and start charging annual fees.

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