Tired of seeing your credit card's interest rates rise unexpectedly? Frustrated with how your credit card bills seem to only get higher? Worried about relying too much on your plastic as the economy tightens?
If so, you're not alone. With the rising costs of gas and food, Americans are leaning on credit cards more than ever. According to the Federal Reserve, consumer credit (largely in the form of credit card debt) increased by $15.3 billion in March 2008, bringing the grand total to $2.56 trillion.
That's no trifling amount of debt, and many Americans are watching helplessly as the amount they owe their credit card issuers snowballs with climbing interest rates, late fees, overdraft charges and other expenses they may not have expected.
Finally, the Federal Reserve has decided to address the issue of unfair practices on the part of credit card issuers. This month, the Fed proposed a set of rules for credit card issuers to follow in hopes of eliminating some of the abusive practices that have sprung up in recent years.
The best part? The Fed is accepting comments from the public, which means you can share your thoughts and suggestions on the new rules. Take a look at the rules and then follow the link to the Fed's website to post a comment.
How it is now: Card issuers can increase interest rates for various reasons (such as universal default), even when a cardholder's account is in good standing.
How it is now: Card issuers can put payments only toward the debt with the lowest interest rate, meaning that other balances are still charged interest, and the user owes the maximum amount possible.
How it is now: Card issuers that use double-cycle billing can end up charging cardholders interest on balances they've already paid off, but may not have registered yet because of the short length of billing cycles.
How it is now: Currently, billing statements must be mailed only 14 days before they're due, though some card issuers choose to send them out earlier.
How it is now: Some credit cards include such high fees that cardholders are in the red before they've even used their cards. This can be frustrating for those trying to rebuild credit after bankruptcy.
How it is now: Banks commonly charge high interest on abusive overdraft loans for even small overdrafts. Many banks include this feature automatically, and consumers don't know about it until they overdraw their accounts.
Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said that these proposed rules are "intended to establish a new baseline for fairness in how credit card plans operate." If you're dealing with credit card debt, you probably agree that credit card issuers seem to have the upper hand in these transactions.
And here's your chance to make that known: visit the Fed's website and submit your ideas.
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