The new National Credit Card Survey by Consumer Action (CA) takes a close look at 126 credit cards issued by 42 companies. Since the mid-1980s, the non-profit education and advocacy organization has conducted an annual review of credit card rates and terms in order to gauge industry trends and provide consumers with a comparison tool. Key findings from this year's survey:
Due to lower federal interest rate indexes, average variable rate annual percentage rates (APRs) have fallen by almost three and a half percentage points in the past year-but 29% of variable rate cards surveyed by CA have minimum APR policies that short-circuit the trend. Without these floors, the rates would have dropped by almost five percentage points.
This year shows that the one-time industry standard requiring cardholders to pay monthly minimum payments of 4% of the outstanding balance has gone the way of the dinosaur.
More issuers than ever will hit cardholders with late fees if payments are not received by the exact date due.
There has been a large jump in banks using risk-based pricing. CA found that 37% of surveyed institutions force applicants to apply for a card before letting them know the APR on their new card. Two years ago, CA found only 14% of surveyed issuers using this tactic.
Late fees have risen sharply, up 7% in just one year.
More issuers are charging currency conversion fees on purchases made in other countries-up to 4% of the amount.
Annual Credit Card Survey 2002: Variable rates hit historic low