A recent report from the Center for Responsible Lending suggests that the reforms introduced by the Credit CARD Act of 2009 are working to improve transparency in the marketing of credit cards to consumers.
In case you need a refresher course, the Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure Act was designed to improve transparency from banks and other credit card issuers so that consumers could navigate the world of credit with greater ease and less financial distress. Here’s a look at just how much this consumer protection legislation has changed.
- Advertised credit card interest rates: Before the passage of the Credit CARD Act, the CRL reports, the discrepancy between the rates advertised by credit card offers and those that consumers actually paid had reached unprecedented highs. In fact, according to the report, between 2004 and 2008, the difference between promoted rates and real rates was at its greatest ever.
- Higher advertised rates means more honesty: Since the passage of the CARD Act, it seems, credit card offers have come branded with higher (and closer to actual) advertised interest rates.
- More transparency in pricing: According to the CRL, new rules governing the way credit cards can advertise their interest rates has led to the exposure of as much as $12.1 billion in annual fees. In other words, credit card companies are now presenting more honest pictures of how much their products cost consumers.
- Interest rates on credit cards constant: Despite the increases in advertised interest rates, the report shows, consumers have not actually paid more in interest since the passage of the CARD Act. This suggests that, rather than increasing the cost of credit card products, the new laws simply made those costs more readily apparent to consumers.
- Credit card offers constant: The CRL notes in its report that direct-mail offers of credit products have been extended at a volume “consistent with economic conditions,” suggesting that, while the overall total may have fallen since boom times, the drop-off can be attributed to the tight economy and not to restrictions imposed by the new law.
What Does Better Transparency Mean for You?
As a consumer, how can you expect to benefit from the changes that have been spurred by the passage of the Credit CARD Act? The CRL lists a few ways:
- Better transparency means more competition: According to the CRL, improved transparency among credit card issuers will spur positive competition – as banks abandon the trends of hidden fees and deceptive pricing, more banks and lenders should follow suit, which should eventually translate to lower consumer costs.
- Tighter rules do not mean less available credit: Though some critics of the CARD Act suggested that the restrictions on lending and increased disclosure requirements would mean a decrease in overall credit availability, numbers from actual research have not borne out those predictions.