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What the Credit Card Bill of Rights means for consumers

Posted by Andrew Chan  May 21, 2009 10:00 AM

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Yesterday, Congress passed the Credit Cardholders' Bill of Rights Act of 2009 and sent it to President Obama for his signature. This bill amends the Truth in Lending Act and provides consumers with many reforms to the way credit cards are issued and administered today. According to the bill that was passed, here is a summary from the Library of Congress of what it means to consumers:

• Creditors cannot increase the annual percentage rate (APR) during the first 12 months of opening up an account.
• Creditors are required to provide consumers with a 45-day advance notice of changes in rates and significant contract changes. Rates that change due to a change in the index that the rate is based on are excluded from this 45-day notice requirement.
• Promotional rates need to be in effect for at least six months from the beginning date of that promotion.
• Creditors need to provide a 30-day advance notice of an account closure.
• With certain exceptions, credit card issuers are prohibited from charging a finance charge based on the double billing cycle method.
• Creditors are prohibited from charging a fee on an outstanding credit card balance at the end of the billing period if the fee is attributed to the interest accrued on an outstanding balance that was fully repaid during that preceding billing period.
• Consumers have the right to reject a new credit card after the creditor notifies a consumer reporting agency of its corresponding account.
• Creditors are required to remove information provided to a consumer reporting agency about newly established credit card accounts if the consumer has not used or activated the account and and if the consumer contacts the creditor within 45 days of its establishment to close it.
• If two or more different APRs apply to different portions of an outstanding balance, the amount of any payment above the required minimum payment needs to be applied to the balance with the highest APR first and then to lower APR balances.
• Creditors are required to provide a grace period for payments even if the cardholder takes advantage of a promotional rate balance or deferred interest rate balance.
• Creditors are required to send credit card statements at least 21 days before the due date of the outstanding balance.
• Creditors are prohibited from providing credit to consumers under age 18 (unless they are emancipated under state law, or the consumer's parent or legal guardian is designated as the primary account holder).
• For college students who do not have a co-signer, the maximum amount of credit extended will be limited to the greater of 20 percent of the student's annual gross income or $500 dollars. The aggregate amount of credit extended from all of their credit cards will be limited to 30 percent of the student's annual gross income (for the recently completed calendar year).
• Creditors are prohibited from opening a credit card account for any college student who does not have any verifiable annual gross income or already maintains a credit card account with that creditor, or any of its affiliates.
• Creditors are prohibited from charging a fee to make telephone and web-based payments. However, a fee may be charged for expedited telephone payments made on the due date or the day before the due date.
• Creditors are required to post their written credit card agreements on the internet.


Source: The Library of Congress

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ABOUT MANAGING YOUR MONEY
Local finance professionals share insights and advice on issues such as budgeting, managing debt, and retirement planning.

About the contributors

D. Abraham Ringer is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER practitioner and a Financial Adviser with Morgan Stanley Global Wealth Management in Boston. He is registered in MA, NH, NY and several other states to which his articles are directed. For more information please visit www.morganstanleyfa.com/ringer
Financial Planning Association™ of Massachusetts has 900 members who specialize in the financial planning process. Many of its members engage in philanthropic pro bono work in their communities, recommend legislation, elevate public awareness, promote financial literacy, and advocate for sound economic and tax policies.
Odysseas Papadimitriou is the founder of CardHub.com, a credit card and gift card marketplace, and WalletHub.com, a personal finance site. He has more than 13 years of experience in the personal finance industry, and previously served as senior director at Capital One.

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