The Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility and Disclosure Act, aka the Credit CARD Act, will go into effect next February, but a few provisions are scheduled to kick in on August 20, about 6 weeks from now. Those provisions include a requirement that credit care issuers give 45 days' notice before an interest rate hike, compared with the 15-day notice currently required now. That'll give consumers time to shop for a new card if they're unhappy with the new rate.
In recent weeks, however, banks have been sneaking in changes in advance of the new law's effective date. Here are a few, identified by Bill Hardekopf, CEO of www.LowCards.com, and author of The Credit Card Guidebook:
•JP Morgan Chase increased the minimum payment percentage to 5 percent of what's owed, from 2 percent. In one sense, that's good for consumers because it forces a quicker payment of the principal, resulting in lower interest payments overall. But it could throw others–particularly those only able to afford to 2 percent–for a loop. [UPDATE July 15, 2009: Chase says they notifed less than one percent of its customers that their monthly payment would increase this way.–Ed.]
•Chase also increased
its the maximum balance transfer fee and cash advance fee to 5 percent, effective in August. Hardekopf says that's the highest in the industry. Bank of America's balance transfer fee is now 4 percent, up from 3 percent.
•Several banks announced they would be moving to a variable rate from a fixed rate. Simmons Visa Platinum Rewards, for instance, is moving tomorrow to a variable rate of 9.25 percent, from a fixed rate of 8.95 percent.
Sneaky as those changes are, you can fight back with your own tactics. Click here for our advice on avoiding credit-card snags and getting the best rates and lowest fees.–Tobie Stanger