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Credit CardHolder’s Bill of Rights

Below is a brief summary of the provisions of the Credit Cardholder’s Bill of Rights Act, as it was passed by the House.  The Act is now before the Senate (which will likely not take it up until 2009).  The changes would dramatically affect the rights of credit cardholder’s in the U.S. 

  • Amends the Truth in Lending Act to prohibit a creditor from increasing any annual percentage rate of interest (APR) applicable to the existing balance on an open end consumer credit card account unless specified conditions are met.
  • Prescribes the treatment of existing balances following a rate increase.
  • Allows a creditor to increase an APR on the existing credit card balance only if the increase is due solely to: (1) the operation of an index not under the creditor’s control and available to the general public; (2) expiration of a promotional rate, or loss of a promotional rate for a reason specified in the account agreement (e.g., late payment); or (3) the consumer’s minimum payment has not been received within 30 days after its due date.
  • Requires a 45-day advance notice of credit card account rate increases. (This is effectively a prohibition of the practice of “universal default” provisions).
  • (Sec. 3) Prohibits imposition of a finance charge, with certain exceptions, upon a credit card account balance that is based on balances for days in billing cycles preceding the most recent billing cycle (double cycle billing).
  • Prohibits the imposition of a fee on an outstanding credit card balance, at the end of a billing period, that is attributable only to interest accrued during the preceding billing period on an outstanding balance fully repaid during that preceding billing period. Declares that any failure to make timely repayments of such a balance shall not constitute a default on the account.
  • Requires each periodic statement of account to provide the telephone number, Internet address, and Worldwide Web site at which the payoff balance may be requested.
  • Grants a consumer the right to reject a new credit card before the creditor notifies a consumer reporting agency of its corresponding account.
  • Details mandatory pro rata payment allocations by a creditor where an outstanding balance accrues interest at two or more different APRs.
  • Sets forth special rules for accounts with promotional rate balances or deferred interest balances.
  • Prohibits a creditor from denying a cardholder a specified payment grace period if the cardholder takes advantage of a promotional rate balance or deferred interest rate balance.
  • Requires creditors to send a periodic credit card statement of account to the consumer at least 25 calendar days before the due date for the next payment on the outstanding balance.
  • (Sec. 4) Authorizes a consumer to opt-out of creditor authorization of over-the-limit transactions if fees are imposed.
  • Limits any imposition of an over-the-limit fee to once per billing cycle.
  • Prohibits imposition of any over-the-limit fee if the credit limit was exceeded due to a credit hold, unless the actual amount of the transaction for which the hold was placed would have resulted in the consumer’s exceeding such credit limit.
  • (Sec. 5) Prescribes the contents of credit card price and availability information which the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (Board) must collect and make public semiannually.
  • Requires the Board to report to Congress annually on estimates of the approximate, relative percentage of income derived by the credit card operations of depository institutions from designated sources, including interest rates and fees imposed upon cardholders.
  • (Sec. 6) Prescribes a standard for the initial issuance of subprime or “fee harvester” cards (accounts requiring first-year fee payments in excess of 25% of the total amount of credit authorized).
  • Prohibits payment of any such fees (other than late fees or over-the-limit fees) from the credit made available by the card.
  • (Sec. 7) Prohibits extensions of credit to consumers under age 18, unless they are emancipated under state law.

It’s time for some big changes in the credit card industry.  The Credit Cardholder’s Bill of Rights Act goes a long way to getting us there!

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