Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Review Those Statements! The CARD Act Is In Effect Now

Just a friendly reminder to our readers to check your credit card statements. Many Americans are discovering that in the month of July their credit card providers snuck up on them and slipped in fees, higher interest rates or other charges in advance of the enactment of the CARD Act, which will further regulate issuers of credit cards.

Here’s a breakdown of the phases and what they include.

First phase: August 2009
Consumers will now receive statements 21 days in advance of their payment due date. The industry standard before was just 14 days.

Card issuers must also give consumers 45 days of notice prior to an interest rate change.

Second phase: February 2010
Card issuers can only raise rates on existing balances if the consumer is A: 60 days or more past due, B: A promotional rate expired, or C: A consumer doesn’t complete the workout plan or D: A variable rate increase because of movement in an index.

The CARD act will also restrict access to credit cards for borrowers under the age of 21 without a co-signer. I expect that P2P lending will be a place to turn for these borrowers—and potentially as part of a long term trend, as these borrowers won’t be “hooked young” by credit in it’s plastic form.

Already credit card borrowers are turning towards peer to peer lending as a replacement/payoff strategy to their credit cards. Blogger Matt Jabs, of DebtFreeAdventure is conducting a “DIY Consolidation” with Lending Club after his credit card company hiked his rate up. I considered it myself after a credit card I no longer use increased its annual fee, but I decided instead to close the account, as interest on my remaining card is still low.

In sum, don’t forget to take a look at your latest statements to make sure that your credit card company didn’t sneak in adjustments to your agreement before the CARD Act took effect this month.

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