New credit card rules take effect

FRESNO, Calif.

576-million credit cards are circulating around the United States. Starting Sunday, each transaction comes with new rules from the government.

A new law means lower late payment fees. They now max out at $25 a month, or the amount of your minimum payment, whichever is lower. There are no more inactivity fees if you leave your card at home, and your credit card company has to give better explanations any time your interest rate increases.

"This is intended to help consumers not have to pay significant fees or not understand what's going on with the interest rate on their card," said Martha Lucey with Clearpoint Credit Counseling Solutions.

Stanley Jones just wrapped up a shopping trip to the Fashion Fair Mall. He watches his money pretty closely and he's phasing out his use of credit cards. "I use debit more, but I found out the debit charges are really just as bad as credit charges."

Debit Card fees are one new area where banks are replacing the credit card fees they used to charge.

"The banks have a responsibility to find new revenue someplace else and so consumers need to be especially cautious and understanding what new fees are going to be put into place because these other fees have been eliminated or decreased," said Lucey.

Many credit card companies are also bringing back annual fees and raising interest rates on new charges, since they can't change the rates on previous purchases.

For Jones, it comes down to being careful and knowing where your credit card can cost you. "If you don't read the fine print, man, they're going to tear you up. A lot of people say 'Man, I got a credit card in the mail', but they're not reading the finance charges."

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