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Sites to See: Clearing Credit CARD Act confusion

2/26/10 - For all the new consumer protections offered by the Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility, and Disclosure (CARD) Act of 2009 , there remain quite a few protections the new law doesn't offer consumers.

Among its protective provisions, effective Feb. 22, 2010, the Credit CARD Act forbids certain retroactive rate increases, certain automatic over-limit fees, and it outlaws raising rates on unrelated accounts, say because you were late on another account.

However, credit card issuers can charge you for not using your card or having a zero balance, hike up your monthly payment, and, without notice, reduce your credit limit and close your account.

"Although the Credit CARD Act of 2009 was a major win for borrowers, credit card companies still keep you guessing by finding new ways to make money," says the Center For Responsible Lending.

Luckily, both the Center for Responsible Lending and the Federal Reserve offer consumers online educational tools that will help them keep their plastic from melting down.

Center For Responsible Lending

Through a host of studies Center has tracked the practice of credit card issuers coming up with new and higher fees to replace those outlawed by the new rules and other tactics to head off lost revenue.

The Center's library of resources helps consumers see through the veil and read the small print.

Items include:

• A Red Riding Hood comic strip explains how those zero percent interest rate credit card come-ons can saddle you with a 30 percent interest rate down the road and "eat you alive!"

• "Dodging Reform: As Some Credit Card Abuses Are Outlawed, New Ones Proliferate."

• "Highlights of the New Credit Card Rules: What They Do and Don't Do"

• "It Pays to Remain Alert to Tricks, Traps, and Any Changes In Your Statement"

Federal Reserve

The Federal Reserve this month opened "Credit Cards" an interactive site to help consumers understand credit card protections, as an adjunct to the also new "New Credit Card Rules" web site.

"New Credit Card Rules" is the straightforward explanation of the Credit Card Act and includes information about disclosures; rates fees and limits; and changes to billing and payments.

It also reveals how your new credit card statement should appear, offers some terminology and lists links to related resources.

"Credit Cards" is more interactive offering:

• "Learn more about your offer," a pop out Flash presentation that helps you understand the terms and fees of a credit card offer.

• "Understand your Statement," another pop out Flash presentation of what the new and improved credit card statement looks like with an explanation of all the disclosures and features.

• "Credit Card Repayment Calculator." Plug in your total balance and annual percentage rate (APR) and you'll learn, likely to your dismay, how long it will take to pay of the balance if you pay only the minimum payment each month.

• Links to learn more about options, interest rates, fees, lost or stolen cards, billing errors, complaints and credit management.

• Still more links to "Improving Your Credit Score," "Getting the Most From Your Credit Card," a glossary, credit protection laws and details about the Credit Card Act.

Consumers are advised to study information available on these independent Web sites to fully understand what the Credit Card Act does and does not offer.

"Site To See" reviews are occasional but timely critiques of content-heavy real estate Web sites deemed unique, consumer-friendly, informative and easy to use.



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