Poll: On eve of credit card reform, few understand what new law holds
Major changes for credit card customers:
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- Consumers must be given 45 days' notice of any changes in the interest rates of future balances or in other key terms of a credit card account.
- Hikes in the interest rates of existing balances are generally prohibited. Exceptions: If a promotional rate expires, if the cardholder makes a late payment, or if the contracted rate was variable. That last one -- a variable interest rate -- is a key loophole that many credit card issuers have been exploiting by changing consumers to variable rate cards prior to Feb. 22.
- Consumers have the right to "opt out" of significant changes that might be imposed on their accounts. To do so, they merely have to close their accounts and pay off the existing balances within five years.
- Limitations are imposed on the issuance of credit cards to anyone under the age of 21.
- Customers who maintain monthly balances must be told how long it will take to pay off that balance if they make only the minimum monthly payments.
- Bills must be mailed at least 21 days before payment is due.