By now we know that “paying” with plastic is both a literal and metaphorical proposition, especially as a good number of bankruptcy bound individuals—even in an era of home-made foreclosure filings and mounting medical bills—find credit card debt to blame for their insolvency.
The Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure Act of 2009 (Credit CARD Act), signed into law by President Obama on May 22, 2009, was meant to change much of that. Signaling a new era of consumer protection, the so-called CARD Act was intended to shield average Americans from unexpected and massive changes to their credit card terms—terms that had previously led directly to financial hardship for an overwhelming amount of our nation’s families.
Following provisions enacted in 2009, February 22, 2010 was a date that marked even more sweeping CARD changes in a continuing effort to right several of the most basic wrongs credit card companies had increasingly imposed upon card holders. From the death to the “Default Clause” to more standard promotional periods to subprime card limits, additional provisions were added to make it even more difficult for purveyors of plastic to have the last laugh on recession-weary consumers.
Fast forward to now, a little over a year after the last parts of the CARD Act went into effect, and many are wondering whether these federal provisions—unlike those meant to help struggling mortgage-holders receive modifications—have actually worked.
A recent report from the Center for Responsible Lending suggests they are, citing improved transparency in the marketing of credit cards to consumers, “without leading to higher rates or more difficulty in getting credit.”
To refresh your memory, some of these refreshing CARD changes included:
- More accurately advertised credit card interest rates: The CRL reports that the passage of the Credit CARD Act has meant reductions in discrepancies between the rates advertised by credit card offers and those that consumers actually paid.
- Higher advertised rates means more honesty: Since the passage of the CARD Act, credit card offers are branded with actual advertised interest rates. While higher than rates advertised pre-CARD Act, these new rates reflect greater honesty in the way the industry is doing its business.
- More transparency in pricing: The CARD Act also contains rules governing the way credit cards can advertise their interest rates. Since the CARD Act was enacted, this has led to the exposure of as much as $12.1 billion in annual fees—fees that were “hidden” prior to 2009.
- Interest rates on credit cards constant: Thanks to the CARD Act, consumers have not actually paid more in interest, allaying fears that new provisions might spur companies to jack up rates in order to compensate for lost revenue.
- Credit card offers constant: While the overall total of credit card offers may have fallen since the 2004-2008 heydays, according to the CRL, the drop-off can be attributed to the economic malaise and not the new law.
According to the Center’s summary of the report, “The increased transparency documented in the report reverses a trend of increasingly unclear pricing that for years misled consumers into believing they would pay less for credit card debt than was true. The difference between the stated rate on credit card solicitations and the rate consumers actually paid widened to unprecedented levels by 2004 and stayed at those levels through 2008. This difference narrowed markedly in the wake of CARD Act reform: Stated prices on solicitations have moved much closer to actual prices, which have remained steady.”
Despite any positive national indicators, if credit card debt and demands have still got you personally down, an experienced bankruptcy attorney can be a useful resource. Visit the website of The Law Offices of John T. Orcutt for the latest advice and up-to-date information for creating a better financial future.