"Old times never come back and I suppose it's just as well. What comes back is a new morning every day in the year, and that's better." - George Edward Woodberry
A couple weeks ago, "The Card ACT" brought some new credit card rules in play, and I wanted to give you a "heads up" about the changes which affect YOU.
How To Use New Credit Card Laws To Your Advantage
You may not have heard, but a new credit card law ("The Card ACT") went into effect recently. The provisions of this new law that will impact most of us are the ones around interest rates, over-limit fees, payment allocation, and monthly statements. Now, if you don't use credit cards in your family life, this doesn't apply to you...but most people do, and you should know about what's now being done by credit card companies in response to this new law.
So, here is a quick summary of what you should know so that you can take full advantage of these pro-consumer changes:
The new rules will make it harder for credit card companies to raise a customer's rates across the board. Under the so-called "universal default practice", a consumer who was late on a payment for one credit card might have seen the interest rate rise on that card and another, unrelated credit card.
But now... interest rate hikes are going away during the first year an account is open and on existing balances. However, banks and card companies will still be able to raise interest rates in *some* cases, such as when you are more than 60 days late paying your bill or an introductory rate expires after six months.
Another important exception: Issuers can raise your rate before the first 12 months is up if your rate is "variable" and tied to an index--and that index rises. These indices are at historic lows, but when rates begin to rise (to keep inflation at bay), so will payments.
Over-Limit Fees Rising
Another major change involves the fee charged when a consumer charges more than his or her credit limit. Until now, many card companies have allowed consumers to continue charging beyond set limits--tacking on sometimes hefty over-the-limit fees in the process. Cardholders will now have to "opt-in" for over-the-limit spending.
How Payments Are Applied To Balances
With the new rules, card issuers have to apply payments to the part of a bill with the higher interest rate. For example, if an account has a $5,000 balance with a regular rate of 15 percent, and a $5,000 balance at a promotional rate of 5 percent, the monthly payment must be applied first to the balance with the 15 percent rate. This is good news for the consumer.
Credit card statements will have to show how long it will take to pay off a credit card if only minimum payments are made. The statements will also have to show how a consumer may pay off the entire bill in 36 months if payments are increased.
Lastly, you should be aware that, because of these new rules, credit card issuers will be forced to find other sources of revenue. Already, we're seeing card companies take an "airlines" approach--identifying ticky-tack fees which can be justified as a "normal" course of business. Rewards transactions & international charging are two very-common places which card issuers are already applying fees. So watch your statements carefully.
Hope this helps!
Kurt Zimmerman is a friendly, "jargon free" estate planning attorney in the Fort Lauderdale area. He offers estate planning services in the Fort Lauderdale area and beyond, as well as a variety of legal services for regular families. For a Free Report on estate planning, visit: http://flestateplanning.com.