Can My Credit Card Company Do That?
Answers to all questions surrounding the looming Credit Card Act.
Credit card holders are often shocked to find sudden changes in fees, spending limits, and interest rates.
Read the fine print because banks are required by law to disclose all changes in a credit card's terms and conditions, and many banks are rushing to make changes before the Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility and Disclosure Act of 2009 takes effect in February.
"The terms and conditions of your credit card agreement are spelled out in the disclosure statement," says Bill Hardekopf, chief executive officer of LowCards.com in Birmingham, Alabama. "It's not easy to read, and after deciphering the language, you have to ask, 'What does it mean for me?' Many people don't get this far because they don't take the time to read the disclosure statement."
Plowing through the opaque legal language in the disclosure statement is a chore, but everything is spelled out in an enclosure sent with your monthly bill or in a letter that's mailed separately.
Paying your bill in full by the deadline each month will free you from the bite of higher interest rates, getting caught by shorter collection cycles, and getting slapped with late fees.
Making timely payments is easier if you develop a household budget that works. Learn the difference between smart and dumb debt and use your credit card wisely.
Plus, be sure to review your credit report as part of an on-going effort to build and maintain a strong credit rating and to guard against identity theft.
If you're unfamiliar with the information, take a minute to learn how to read a credit report.
Federal law requires the credit bureaus to provide consumers with one free copy of their report each year. To download and print a free copy of your report from Equifax (EFX), TransUnion or Experian, click here for the official website.
"About 80% of credit cards don't have an annual fee," Hardekopf says. "If you're paying a fee, you should shop around. There may not be as much wiggle room as there was in the past, but the industry is competitive and it pays to shop around, even with interest rates and fees up and rewards down."
Some cardholders are shocked by changes in the terms and yelp, "Can my bank do that?" The short answer: In most cases, yes. Hardekopf tells you what changes issuers can make now in your credit card agreement:
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