In 2009, the powers that be decided to save all of us from high interest rates on our credit cards. I can see that this was a noble effort to stop those greedy banks from taking advantage of consumers, but if the legislation was so important, why did Congress decide that the legislation should not take effect for a year?
The credit card companies know they are running out of time. The new law takes effect in April, so they are doing everything they can to raise your fees and interest rates before the deadline. You need to be prepared. There are going to be lots of little dirt tricks so be on the look out! Here are some of ways they’ll try to get ya.
1. Raising your interest rate.
Watch your mail for a letter from your credit card company stating they are changing the terms of your agreement. Along with the change in terms is a huge interest rate hike. If you read the blog, you know I hate credit cards. I’m doing my best to get out of debt ASAP. I got one of those letters last year. The letter stated that I could “opt out” of the changes. I called the credit card company and was informed that I could “opt out” but I wouldn’t be able to use my card anymore. OH NO! You mean I can’t use your crappy card to get further into debt at a ridiculously high interest rate? You mean if I opt out, I can keep my super low interest rate and pay you off faster so I can never use you again? I’ll take option 2 please.
2. Annual fees
Since the credit card companies will not be allowed to raise interest rates if you miss a payment or have a poor credit history, those who use their cards for the rewards points are going to pay. Watch your statements for new annual account fees. These fees could be as high as $150 a year. I’m not willing to pay $150 a year for a gym membership and you think I’m going to pay this for a credit card? Um…no.
3. Inactivity fees
This is a fun fee. If you don’t use your card or if you don’t carry a balance on your card, therefore incurring interest charges, you could get whacked with a fee. Again, watch those statements and make sure you open every piece of mail you get from your credit card companies.
4. Statement fees
Some companies, including World Financial Network National Bank, which handles the credit cards for some of your favorite stores (Ann Taylor, Victoria Secret and others) is introducing a $1 statement fee if you elect to have your statement sent to you snail mail. You can avoid this fee by signing up for electronic statements. I’m sure if you opt for the electronic statements, they’ll wave the late payment fee because you missed the email. Yeah right.
Watch for these and other fees in the coming months. Make sure you read your statements carefully and watch your interest rate from month to month. January is a good time to review your credit cards and make sure you are getting the best deal possible.