It has been a number of months since new laws were passed to address the aggressive marketing tactics of credit card companies and their downright crooked methods of making money through penalty fees and interest rate hikes. To date, even with some facets of the law intact, few consumers are realizing a positive impact. This is because credit card companies have used the government intervention as an excuse to increase rates and invent new fees before the real teeth of the law come into effect in February of 2010.
Thankfully, it sounds like lawmakers behind the effort have caught wind of the ongoing tactics and are now pushing to enact the laws sooner than expected, as early as December of this year.
Representative Barney Frank, chairman of the House Financial Services Committee and by no means a novice at how to get under the skin of big business, is leading the measure to get the law into action sooner. He is joined by fellow Democrat Carolyn Maloney of New York. The act also prevents credit card companies from raising interest rates unless a customer is more than 60 days late and requires the original rate to be restored after six months of on-time payments.
Aspects of the legislation considered for the proposed December 1 deadline include the requirement that credit card companies apply payments to the cardholder's highest balance accounts first. The legislation would also put an end to the practice of "universal default" interest rate hikes. This practice allows individual lenders to increase interest rates if their customer defaults on an account with a completely different lender. When this happens, multiple credit accounts set to the default rate simultaneously, greatly increasing the chance for additional defaults and added fees.
Industry card issuers have been primarily pushing fees to address tactics consumers use to avoid higher payments, such as when a customer transfers balances from a high interest card to one that may be offering a much lower introductory rate. Discover Financial Services, which issues the Discover Card, announced an increase in balance transfer fees from three percent to five percent of the balance. On a $5,000 balance, the cost would go from $150.00 to $250.00.
In recent months, American Express, Chase, and Bank of America have all raised interest rates across the board, and have changed many account holders' interest rates from fixed to variable. A representative from www.lowcards.com stated that their company has tracked more than 50 interest rate, fee and terms changes by eight card companies since January, which is when the bill was starting to take shape in Washington.
Rep. Frank and others in Congress are not pleased with the credit industry's reaction to the Act, and are looking to put a stop to abusive lending practices as soon as possible. However, even with the changed effective date, consumer advocates fear that credit card issuers will simply raise the interest rates before December 1st, leaving many consumers to deal with unmanageable interest rates at a time when account balances are often at the highest-- right after Christmas.
If you're sick of the interest rate hikes, sick of the penalty fees, and want an opportunity to start fresh, call a bankruptcy attorney today. In North Carolina, call 1-888-234-4181 to set up a free initial debt consultation. Or visit www.billsbills.com, where you can fill out our confidential debt questionnaire and set up an appointment at one of our 4 convenient office locations.