11/04/2009 - If your wallet hasn't already been cleaned out by the recession or your kids, it may be time to do it yourself.
Credit-card lenders, facing higher defaults and new, profit-crimping laws, have been increasing fees and interest rates, raising minimum payments and cutting credit limits. Some Citigroup Inc. customers have seen their credit limits cut, their interest rates jump as high as 29.99% or their cards canceled altogether.
Last month, Bank of America, another large card issuer, said it is testing annual fees ranging from $29 to $99 on a small number of card holders, which may include some who pay their bills in full every month.
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If you want to use your card sparingly while getting fair rates and low fees, consider cards from a regional bank or big credit union. The Pew Safe Cards Project, part of the Pew Charitable Trusts, recently compared 12 large bank issuers and 12 large credit unions and found the credit unions' advertised rates were much lower and their penalty fees were about half what the banks charged.
Read the full article Credit Cards: Break Up, or Make Up? on the Wall Street Journal'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Pew is no longer active in this line of work, but for more information visit the Safe Credit Cards Project on PewHealth.org.