Back in May, President Obama pushed for new legislation to prohibit some of the business tactics of credit card companies. Namely, the Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility and Disclosure Act of 2009 will require lenders to notify card holders of rate and fee increases 45 days before they take affect. Until August 20, they only need 15 days of notification.
The small timelines credit card companies use to alert consumers of rate hikes is considered a primary driver of high personal debt because they are timed with a person's spending habits. In other words, if a new television or other large expense was put on a card, a consumer would have about two weeks to pay it before the rate jumped, substantially increasing the overall cost of the item.
The 45-day window will allow consumers to be more proactive in alleviating their balance, whether through balance transfers to cards with lower interest rates or by simply putting more money toward the balance. Washington economists believe that a more lenient credit card industry will contribute to lower personal debt and hopefully, fewer bankruptcies.
The best part of the new legislation? A cardholder can refuse the rate increase or late fee and agree to close the account and pay off the remaining balance within five years. This component of the bill was a big win for consumer advocates, as it provides consumers with a solid opportunity to assess their spending and make changes before allowing it to spiral out of control.
It also creates competition within the industry because consumers will have additional time to shop for a new credit card. This will eventually force the industry to be more consumer-centric.
When the law hits tomorrow, credit card users who have suffered from late fees will also feel some relief. The act states that statements must be mailed 21 days before a due date to allow the lender to charge a late fee. And, that fee can only be applied after an additional 14-day notice period.
More provisions will take effect at different times over the next year. For example, the law states that any credit card applicant under 21 must have an adult co-signer. It also disallows any retroactive rate increases, which had previously been a tremendous money maker for card lenders. This allowed them to apply higher fees to expenses incurred by the cardholder months prior to the notice of an increase being sent out, resulting in exponentially larger balances.
Unfortunately, credit card companies are still actively implementing new strategies to increase revenue streams before the full brunt of the act takes effect in 2010. Annual fees, balance-transfer fees and assorted other monetary upticks are being assessed to cardholders nationwide. People are seeing interest rates double without notice.
If you are consistently carrying a balance on your credit cards and can't seem to get a handle on your debt, speak with a bankruptcy attorney today to discuss your options under bankruptcy law. A properly planned bankruptcy can eliminate your credit card debt and give you the fresh start you deserve.