If you haven’t been reading all your credit card mail, you better take a look at the fine print. Cardholders are still being notified of changes to their account two years after the sweeping CARD Act became law.
Consumer analysts say banks haven’t raised the stakes as much as they expected as some of the revenue streams have been lessened as the rules were phased in. For example, the CARD Act makes it obvious how much you owe on your credit card and how much you’ll pay in interest if you make the minimum payment. Consumer credit counselors say it’s changed consumer behavior, because consumers now realize they need a budget to make more than the minimum payment.
However, cardholders are being notified of changes. Starting in late June, all Bank of America credit cardholders will be subject to a penalty interest rate if they make a late payment. The penalty will be up to 29.99% interest on new purchases. While everyone is getting the letter, the penalty will be applied on a case by case basis depending on your credit profile. In other words, you’ll be penalized if your credit is not in good standing, you’ve had late payments in the past, or perhaps make the minimum payment. These are factors that impact your credit risk, which is what banks are weighing.
While Bank of America is adding the penalty now, other banks have been doing it since before the CARD Act.
For consumers who are a credit risk, Bank of America is also adding an annual fee of $59. The Bank says it’s a good value for cardholder because they would not qualify for the rate they currently have if they applied for credit with today’s credit limitations. This fee is only applied to 5% of cardholders. Things that triggered the fee include late payments, minimum payments, have just one account, or have a revolving credit balance that’s close to the limit.
These are good reminders to maintain good credit, because the changes are likely to continue. Mess up, and you’ll pay up.
If your bank changes the terms of your account and you don’t like it, you can close the account. You’ll have the ability to continue paying on your debt as long as you pay at least the minimum payment each month. You just won’t have any new credit.
If you close an account, you need to understand it will drop your score temporarily. While you may want to cancel out of principle, you also need to think twice if the card is one of your older cards. A credit history on one card helps build your score, and your credit history will take a hit if you close that card. You need to determine if the card is worth the money each year, or you can withstand the extra money it may cost you for a loan or more credit if you close one account and open another. The hit is short term so you’ll be in good shape as long as you don’t need credit in the short term.
Bankrate’s 2011 credit card study found 95% of bank cards they analyzed still don’t have annual fees, so consumers have options. You don’t have to wait for the card offers to arrive in the mail. Bankrate makes it easy to find a card that meets your needs. It doesn’t mean you’ll get approved, but it’s a good starting point to finding a better offer.