Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Credit Card Reform

In the midst of the financial crisis, the U.S. House took an important step yesterday in protecting consumer rights, passing the Credit Cardholder's Bill of Rights, a bill aimed at putting an end to some of the most predatory practices of the credit card industry. Provisions of the bill include:

-Protects cardholders against arbitrary interest rate increases
-Prevents cardholders who pay on time from being unfairly penalized
-Protects cardholders from due date gimmicks
-Shields cardholders from misleading terms
-Empowers cardholders to set limits on their credit
-Requires card companies to fairly credit and allocate payments
-Prohibits card companies from imposing excessive fees on cardholders
-Prevents card companies from giving subprime credit cards to people who can’t afford them
-Requires Congress to provide better oversight of the credit card industry

The best provisions prevent lenders from increasing your interest rate without notifying you, permits you to pay off your balance under the old rate if you decide to cancel your card after notification, and prevents companies from retroactively applying the higher interest rate to earlier purchases on the card. It also limits fees to some extent, though I don't see anything about a cap on the size of fees that may be charged for late payments or going over your limit. So it doesn't go quite as far as I'd like, but it's a considerable step in the right direction.

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