11/05/2009 - Like a lot of credit-card-carrying Americans, Paul Antico has had his wallet hit hard in recent months. His Bank of America credit card went from a fixed interest rate to a variable one that changes from one billing cycle to the next. Citibank has raised his other card's interest rate from 5.99 percent to 14.99 percent since late May, even though Antico pays on time, and his reward points have become harder and harder to redeem. "These are back-stabbing things," says the 37-year-old Massachusetts resident and technology analyst. "Customers are paying to keep the banks afloat, and the thanks we get is 'Go screw yourself. Here's a higher rate.' "
How high? A recent report done by the Safe Credit Cards Project at The Pew Charitable Trusts found that over the past four months, credit-card companies have routinely tacked on new fees, altered account terms, and jacked up interest rates, sometimes to as high as 30 percent. The industry says such hikes are necessary because it is assuming greater risk by extending credit in bad times. That may be the case, but President Obama’s new credit-card legislation, which passed in May and takes effect in February 2010, is supposed to stop credit-card companies from unfairly increasing rates or fees, targeting consumers under the age of 21, and hiding behind contracts filled with hard-to-understand legal language.
Read the full article Credit-Card Company or Loan Shark? on Newsweek'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Pew is no longer active in this line of work, but for more information visit the Safe Credit Cards Project on PewHealth.org.