New Credit Card Laws Aim to Protect Consumers

February 18, 2010 12:00:00 AM PST
They're a lifeline for people all over. And many of us use them every day. But with one swipe of that credit card -- you could wind up paying more than you expect.

Action News found "hidden fees" on several credit card statements. For example, retailers J. Crew and Victoria's Secret has started charging its customers $1.00 for a monthly statement. And on a Macy's bill, interest is listed and charged even before customers have the chance to pay the bill. The bill shows $2.59 added to a $201.00 charge.

Kristy Marthedal said, "For the most part, I try and pay it every month, but they always seem to charge the interest and if you don't call, I think they think they can just slip one by you."

Macy's said customers can pay the provisional interest payment and get a rebate or just simply deduct that amount from their bill. But that explanation can only be found in the fine print ? something many people simply ignore.

Credit Counselor Martha Lucey said consumer relief is on the way. On February 22nd, a new federal law called the credit card act will give credit card holders more transparency.

"It's intended to increase disclosures, so there's better disclosures up front when you open a credit card, there's better information on your monthly statement and there are some things that are prohibited as part of the act," said Lucey.

Starting next week, credit card companies can no longer automatically increase your credit limit, unless you agree to the change -- people under 21 cannot open a credit card unless they have a co-signer or can show they are financially able to make payments -- you cannot be charged to make a payment over the phone -- and if you're a cardholder in good standing, your interest rate cannot be raised for the first year

Lucey said,"The card act is intended to stop some of the confusing behavior."

Like what we saw on a Macy's bill.

In a statement to Action News, Citi -- which is Macy's credit holder -- explained quote, "The new regulations going into effect on February 22nd will change how we calculate interest and communicate it to our customers."

But Lucey warns -- credit card companies will still try to work around the system.

"It prohibits some types of fees but also requires disclosure of other types of fees so we believe companies will displace fees they can't charge with new fees," said Lucey.

Which is why you need to read your statements carefully and be aware.

"Now, my income is lower so I have to be more consistent with how I'm spending my money, so spending money on my Macy's cards or other cards that are doing this may not be a good idea especially if its over-charging me."


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