05/24/2009 - Congress is throwing a rope to credit card users who have been trapped by an industry whose standard operating procedures include deceptive practices, arbitrary rules changes and crippling interest rates. The aid couldn't come at a better time.
The number of overdue loans continues to increase, and with default rates rising, credit card issuers have been summarily raising the interest rates charged borrowers who've never lost their job or missed a payment. People with low interest rates have seen them double.
Congress just passed a credit card reform bill that adds to the reforms recently imposed by the Federal Reserve Board. President Obama signed the bill on Friday, and its provisions will be effective within nine months. But more work remains to be done to ensure that consumers get a fair shake.
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Here are some of the other changes it will make:
- Bills will have to be sent a minimum of 21 days before a payment is due. Any payment received before 5 p.m. on a business day must be credited. No same-day early deadlines.
- A penalty interest rate, in most cases, may not be imposed on a balance until a minimum payment is at least 60 days late. According to The Pew Charitable Trusts, 82 percent of credit cards permit unlimited penalty rate increases.
Read the full editorial A Welcome Reform of Credit Card Rules
on the Concord Monitor
's Web site.Pew is no longer active in this line of work, but for more information visit the Safe Credit Cards Project on PewHealth.org.