Relief in Store for Credit Card Holders

Thursday, December 18th 2008, 7:21 pm
By: News 9

By Jennifer Pierce, NEWS 9

OKLAHOMA CITY -- Relief is now in sight for millions of credit card holders. The feds have passed new rules that crack down on the credit card industry and it's the biggest change in decades.

Americans have racked up billions in credit card debt and now the federal government is stepping in to offer some relief.

"I think these rules will make it so that there aren't so many things that can get you in trouble," Jennifer Wallis with Consumer Credit Counseling Service said.

Wallis helps people get out of debt though credit counseling. She says interest rates can be overwhelming and deceptive.

"They entice you with the zero percent and then after that they can raise it if you're a day late or whatever it may be," consumer Nicholas Ylla said.

Under the fed's new rules, credit card companies will not be able to raise interest rates on existing balances, unless the customer is 30 or more days late on a payment. The other change is to what's called the universal default clause.

"If you pay one of your creditors late, then they may raise your interest rates on your other credit cards even if you've never paid them late, that will be going away," Wallis said.

That credit card debt may take less time to pay off.

"If you have a credit card balance with different interest rates for different purchases and balance transfers, right now they apply your entire payments to the lowest interest portion of your balance, now they will have to apply it to the highest interest," Wallis said.

The downside in this is that the rules don't take effect until 2010. Some said it's enough time for the credit card companies to get more money out of you, the consumer.

"They may increase their fees or their expenses now to try and make up some of this money they will be losing later," Wallis said.

In the meantime, some shoppers said the best credit protection isn't the government, but closer to home.

"I would put the emphasis on people being responsible for their own actions and their own spending," consumer Caroline Humphreys said.

The new rules also prohibit double cycling. That's when card companies go back to earlier billing cycles to calculate interest charged in a current cycle.