WASHINGTON – The average American is carrying about $1,100.00 of debt per credit card, according to Experian Marketing Insight, and most of us have more than one.
Now get this: a $3,000 balance will take 11 years to pay off — if you pay only the minimum balance.
That’s the shocking statistic that consumers will start to see on their credit card bills, now that the regulations of the Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility and Disclosure (CARD) Act have taken full effect.
“I hope that that shocks people into taking a more responsible attitude toward their credit.” says financial advisor Patricia Powell.
Cardholders will also see how much they’ll have to pay each month, if they want to pay the balance off in three years.
Since August, credit card issuers have already changed some of their practices. Consumers must now have 21 days to pay their bill, and get 45 days notice of interest rate changes. They have the option now to cancel the card before the fee or rate hike takes effect.
Other changes that kicked in February 22 include no interest rate increases for the first year of card ownership, introductory rates must stay in place for 6 months, rate increases can only be applied to new charges, and annual fees can’t go over 25% of your credit limit.
There are new protections for young card holders as well. A recent study by Sallie Mae found that 84% of college students carry credit cards, and seniors graduate with an average of $4,100.00 in debt on those accounts.
“You just swipe it and don’t think about it and at the end of the month… surprise!” says Emily Suied, a Texas undergraduate.
The regulations should mean no more surprises, says Scott Talbott, a vice president with the Financial Services Roundtable.
“The consumer has a lot more understanding, a lot more disclosures, a lot more ability to take control over their credit card and that’s very important,” says Talbott.
Consumer watchdogs are warning that credit card issuers will create new fees and raise old ones to compensate. The new rules don’t limit how high a rate hike can go after the appropriate notice, or the amount of the minimum payment. Notice isn’t required for variable rate credit cards, or if a consumer is 60 days overdue for a payment.
It’s important to remember, that while we’ve all become attached to our credit cards — they aren’t charities.
“There has to be a balance between government regulations to protect consumers at the same time allowing them to generate a profit like any other business.” says Talbott.
Credit card agreements are contracts, and both the issuer, and the user have to uphold them.
“These new rules don’t absolve consumers of their obligation to pay their bills,” said President Obama in a statement.
“They finally level the playing field so that every family and small business using a credit card has the information they need to make responsible decisions.”
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