Web DebtSmart.com
DebtSmart.com
Saturday, January 19, 2019   
 

Government launches crackdown on unfair credit cards
by Federal Reserve
The primary responsibility of the Board members is the formulation of monetary policy. The seven Board members constitute a majority of the 12-member Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC), the group that makes the key decisions affecting the cost and availability of money and credit in the economy.
Printable format
FREE subscription to DebtSmart® Email Newsletter and FREE software too!

 Federal Reserve

The Federal Reserve Board on Friday, 5/2/08, proposed rules to prohibit unfair practices regarding credit cards and overdraft services that would, among other provisions, protect consumers from unexpected increases in the rate charged on pre-existing credit card balances.

The rules, proposed for public comment under the Federal Trade Commission Act (FTC Act), also would forbid banks from imposing interest charges using the "two-cycle" billing method, would require that consumers receive a reasonable amount of time to make their credit card payments, and would prohibit the use of payment allocation methods that unfairly maximize interest charges. They also include protections for consumers that use overdraft services offered by their bank.

"The proposed rules are intended to establish a new baseline for fairness in how credit card plans operate," said Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke.  "Consumers relying on credit cards should be better able to predict how their decisions and actions will affect their costs."

The proposed changes to the Board’s Regulation AA (Unfair or Deceptive Acts or Practices) would be complemented by separate proposals that the Board is issuing under the Truth in Lending Act (Regulation Z) and the Truth in Savings Act (Regulation DD).

The provisions addressing credit card practices are part of the Board’s ongoing effort to enhance protections for consumers who use credit cards, and follow the Board's 2007 proposal to improve the credit card disclosures under the Truth in Lending Act. The FTC Act proposal includes five key protections for consumers that use credit cards:

  • Banks would be prohibited from increasing the rate on a pre-existing credit card balance (except under limited circumstances) and must allow the consumer to pay off that balance over a reasonable period of time.
     
  • Banks would be prohibited from applying payments in excess of the minimum in a manner that maximizes interest charges.
     
  • Banks would be required to give consumers the full benefit of discounted promotional rates on credit cards by applying payments in excess of the minimum to any higher-rate balances first, and by providing a grace period for purchases where the consumer is otherwise eligible.
     
  • Banks would be prohibited from imposing interest charges using the "two-cycle" method, which computes interest on balances on days in billing cycles preceding the most recent billing cycle.
     
  • Banks would be required to provide consumers a reasonable amount of time to make payments.

The proposal would also address subprime credit cards by limiting the fees that reduce the available credit. In addition, banks that make firm offers of credit advertising multiple rates or credit limits would be required to disclose in the solicitation the factors that determine whether a consumer will qualify for the lowest rate and highest credit limit. 

KARK4 (NBC),  Money Matters, Arkansas

"Unfair practices can impose significant costs on credit card users," said Federal Reserve Board Governor Randall S. Kroszner. "The new proposed rules would provide the benefit of substantial protection against practices that can harm consumers."

The Board's proposal under the FTC Act also addresses acts or practices in connection with a bank’s payment of overdrafts on a deposit account, whether the overdraft is created by check, a withdrawal at an automated teller machine, a debit card purchase, or other transactions. The proposal requires institutions to provide consumers with notice and an opportunity to opt out of the payment of overdrafts, before any overdraft fees or charges may be imposed on consumers' accounts. 

To ensure that consumers enjoy the same protections regardless of the institution from which they obtain a credit card or receive overdraft protection, the Board's FTC Act proposal is issued concurrently with substantively similar proposals by the Office of Thrift Supervision and the National Credit Union Administration that would apply, respectively, to savings associations and federally-chartered credit unions.

 

Highlights of Proposed Rules Regarding Credit Cards and Overdraft Services

Regulation AA (Unfair Acts or Practices)
The proposal would amend Regulation AA to prohibit unfair or deceptive acts or practices by banks in connection with credit card accounts and overdraft services for deposit accounts.
Credit Cards
  • Time to Make Payments.  The proposal would prohibit banks from treating a payment as late unless the consumer has been provided a reasonable amount of time to make that payment. There would be a safe harbor for banks that send periodic statements at least 21 days prior to the payment due date.
     
  • Allocation of Payments.  When different annual percentage rates (APRs) apply to different balances on a credit card account (for example, purchases and cash advances), banks would have to allocate payments exceeding the minimum payment using one of three methods or a method equally beneficial to consumers. They could not allocate the entire amount to the balance with the lowest rate. A bank could, for example, split the amount equally between two balances. In addition, to enable consumers to receive the full benefit of discounted promotional rates (for example, on balance transfers), during the promotional period payments in excess of the minimum would have to be allocated first to balances on which the rate is not discounted.
     
  • Applying Rate Increases to Existing Balances.  The proposal would prohibit banks from increasing the interest rate on outstanding balances unless the increase is due to: (i) the operation of an index (in other words, the rate is a variable rate); (ii) the expiration or loss of a promotional rate (provided the rate is not increased to a penalty rate); or (iii) the minimum payment not being received within 30 days of the due date.
     
  • Two-Cycle Billing.  The proposal would prohibit banks from imposing finance charges based on balances on days in billing cycles preceding the most recent billing cycle, a practice that is sometimes referred to as two-cycle billing.
     
  • Financing of Security Deposits and Fees.  The proposal would address concerns regarding subprime credit cards by prohibiting banks from financing security deposits and fees for credit availability (such as account-opening fees or membership fees) if charges assessed during the first twelve months would exceed 50 percent of the initial credit limit. The proposal would also require financed security deposits and fees exceeding 25 percent of the initial credit limit to be spread over the first year.
     
  • Credit Card Holds.  The proposal would prohibit banks from imposing a fee when the credit limit is exceeded solely because a hold was placed on available credit. This can occur where the final dollar amount of a transaction was not known in advance (for example, when a consumer checks into a hotel, a hold is placed for the expected cost of the stay).
     
  • Firm Offers of Credit.  The proposal would require banks making firm offers of credit advertising multiple APRs or credit limits to disclose the factors that determine whether a consumer will qualify for the lowest APR and highest credit limit advertised (for example, the consumer’s credit history, income, and debts). A safe harbor disclosure is provided.
     
Overdraft Services
  • Right to Opt Out.  The proposal would prohibit banks from imposing a fee for paying an overdraft unless the bank has provided the consumer with an opportunity to opt out of the payment of overdrafts and the consumer has not done so. The opt-out right would apply to all transaction types. Banks also would be required to provide consumers a partial opt-out for overdrafts resulting from ATM and point-of-sale transactions.
     
  • Debit Holds.  The proposal would prohibit banks from imposing a fee when the account is overdrawn solely because a hold was placed on funds in the consumer’s deposit account.This can occur where the final dollar amount of the transaction was not known in advance (for example, when a consumer purchases fuel at the pump, a hold is placed for the estimated amount of fuel that will be purchased).
     

Regulation Z (Truth in Lending)
The proposal would also amend Regulation Z to complement the proposed amendments to Regulation AA, including the following:

  • Due Dates for Mailed Payments.  The proposal would provide that mailed credit card payments received by 5 p.m. on the due date must be considered timely. In addition, if a creditor does not receive or accept mailed payments on the due date (for example, when the due date falls on a Sunday or holiday), a payment received by mail on the next business day would be considered timely.

Regulation DD (Truth in Savings)
The proposal would also amend Regulation DD to complement the proposed amendments to Regulation AA, including the following:

  • Disclosure of Aggregate Overdraft Fees.  The proposal would extend to all banks and savings associations the requirement to disclose on periodic statements the aggregate dollar amounts charged for overdraft fees and for returned item fees (for the month and the year-to-date).  Currently, only institutions that promote or advertise the payment of overdrafts must disclose aggregate amounts.
     
  • Disclosure of Balance Information.  The proposal would require banks and savings associations that provide account balance information through an automated system to disclose the amount of the consumer’s funds available for immediate use or withdrawal, without including additional funds the institution may provide to cover overdrafts.

 

Post Your Comments

All three Federal Register notices are attached. In light of the significance of the issues raised, the comment period for the FTC Act proposal ends seventy-five days after publication of the proposal in the Federal Register, while the comment periods for the Regulation Z and DD proposals end sixty days after publication. Publication of each of the proposals is expected shortly.

Statement by Chairman Ben S. Bernanke

Statement by Governor Randall S. Kroszner

Federal Register Notice -- Regulation AA (Federal Trade Commission Act) (788 KB PDF)

Federal Register Notice -- Regulation DD (237 KB PDF)

Federal Register Notice -- Regulation Z (541 KB PDF)

Board meeting materials

Proposals for Comment

Regulation AA (Federal Trade Commission Act) -- Unfair or Deceptive Acts or Practices
Submit comment
View comments
Regulation DD -- Truth in Savings
Submit comment
View comments
Regulation Z -- Truth in Lending
Submit comment
View comments

--End--

 

Subscribe FREE and start finding new ways to save money and pay off your debt.

"The DebtSmart Email Newsletter is packed with cutting-edge strategies for solving credit problems. I highly recommend it."--Gerri Detweiler, radio host and author of The Ultimate Credit Handbook




DEBTSMART MEDIA MENTIONS
NBC 10 News:
Money King Secrets
<Photos and Video>
CN8:
Art Fennell Reports
<Photos and Video>
CNN: CNN Newsroom
<Photos and Video>
CNN: American Morning
<Photos and Video>
ABC: Action News
<Photos and Video>
CNN/fn: Your Money
<Photos and Video>
<See all Television Interviews>

Subscribe to the DebtSmart® RSS Feed
     
   Add to Google