Credit Cards

Two Credit CARD Act Loopholes You Need to Know About Right Now

Comments 9 Comments

I recently came across two really big—no, make that gargantuan—CARD Act loopholes that no one has made much of a fuss about.

A few weeks ago, I was doing a little “light” reading on Helpwithmybank.gov, which is associated with the Comptroller of the Currency Administrator of National Banks (OCC), and read a Q&A that made me stop in my tracks. It was about what happens when you receive a notice that your credit card’s interest rate (also known as the APR) is going to increase in 45 days.

The question: Can I continue making purchases with my card at the existing rate for 45 days?

The response on Helpwithmybank.gov: “After 14 days, the new rate will apply to further transactions. At the end of the 45-day period, the bank can begin charging the new rate for any balances you accrued after the 14th day after the bank sent the notice.”

“Please note that if your rate is increasing because you were more than 60 days late in making a required payment, the bank can apply the new rate to all your balances.”

[Related: How a 3-Year Debt Payoff Plan Takes Twelve Years]

This response uncovers two astounding loopholes. Let’s take a look at each one.

Loophole #1: If you receive notice of an interest rate increase, your new rate is applied after 14 days—not the 45 days that’s implied under the CARD Act.

Honestly, my first response to this gem was: Are they kidding me? The common belief is that we all have 45 days before the increase takes effect. But according to this response by the OCC, if your interest rate increases, you don’t get 45 days before it takes effect.

Instead, credit card issuers can start applying the new, higher rate just 14 days after notification of the increase is mailed to you. This means that all purchases made after the 14th day are charged at the new APR. You get 45 days before you have to make a payment that includes the higher APR.

I contacted the OCC to make sure this response was accurate and in line with the Credit CARD Act 0f 2009. A spokesman for the OCC said, “After 14 days, the new rate will apply to further transactions.” He confirmed that the 14-day window is a correct interpretation of the CARD Act and that the 14-day period begins with the postmark date on the notification that’s sent to you. I know this is confusing, so here’s an example of a timeline to keep in mind if you receive a notification that your interest rate is going up:

August 1: Your credit card company mails a notification that your APR is increasing from 12 percent to 15 percent.

August 15: Any transactions you make from this day forward are subject to the 15 percent rate.

September 15: At the 45-day point, your statement will reflect your new 15 percent APR. And the 15 percent rate applies to all purchases starting on August 15th.

So why the hoopla over the 45 days notice? Well, you can think of it this way. You can use your 45 days to figure out how you’ll pay a higher interest rate on your purchases. Or you can decide that you don’t accept the new terms and work out a plan to pay off your balance.

[Credit Card Reviews: Credit Cards with Really Low APRs]

Loophole #2: Watch out for the retroactive interest rate increase »

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  • http://www.issamar.com Rabbi Issamar Ginzberg

    Great catch! That is one of those seemingly pro-consumer deals that has has an ugly reality… and the people least like to be able to afford the higher rate are the ones that will be hurt most.

    did anyone mention the fact that the bankruptcy reforms were pushed through just before the economy fell off a cliff?

    • Beverly Blair Harzog

      Thanks for your comment! Your so right. This hurts the people who needs help the most. The CARD Act was step in the right direction, no doubt. But failure to give consumers all the important details isn’t acceptable.

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  • Michael

    My wife was diagnosed with cancer and had to stop worling immediatly and go through to major operations. That put her out of work for 8 f the last 12 months. She had purchased insurance on all her cards. We had no income and contacted card compinies immediatly about using the insurance. To this day they ruined her credit and all the request to insurance for the cards and the credit card compinies have been ignored. They are all crooks and get away with it.

  • Dee Cohn

    If they do the retroactive higher percentage, then they should not get any more money ever. Your crdeit is already ruined, why hurt yourself and pay the high interest. Stop paying your credit card bills and buy things with cash instead. Let them call and scream. Until their is a debtors prison why not? Credit is not as important as it once was, many people have bad credit now at no fault of their own. Everyday people shouldn’t be punished for other’s mistakes in managing the country’s finances.

  • Benjoh

    This is not right. The credit card companies have to wait 3 business days after the day they mail the notice to start the 14 days. It is at the receipt of the letter to the consumer. These banks and credit card issuers need to go back and read FTC Consumer Rules. This gives you 17 days + your normal 28 days billing cycle and this equals the 45 days. Yes, if they have to mail everyone the same notice that has the same credit score, not just one person. These statements and notices the banks send out with all these raise interest this and that are not new. Alot of times the banks raise the rates and forget to send out the statements, like Citi Sears did back in September, 2009. They were suppose to send these letters out in case someone wanted to opt out, but the letters was not sent out. But everyone who had that type of account, interest was 3 x as much as it was before and it caused alot of people to default on that card. Imagine paying, $129.00 a month and getting a statement for your minimum the next month at $387.00 which is as much as a car note and thhis is a credit card.

    • Tax Guy

      Under the UCC, (Uniform Commercial Code) which is a very large compilation of federal regulations, any item sent using the U.S.P.S. is considered received the date that it is mailed. This law has been in existence for as long as I can remember. This is exactly why the IRS regards tax returns as filed on time if it is postmarked on the due date. They must.

      Since I no little of the FTC Consumer rules, I can’t really dispute what you have stated, but, it may be possible for the FTC Consumer rules to supercede the UCC. However, the Card Act may very well supercede the FTC Consumer rules. In that case, we may be losing the 3 days.

      I can only give my personal opinion on the FTC Consumer rules and the Card Act.

      However, I am quite sure about the UCC rule. But just try and get a bank to comply with it. Good luck.

  • Beverly Harzog

    Benjoh–Thanks for your comment. I confirmed with the The Fed that the 14-day period starts on the postmark date. The CARD Act did a lot to help consumers but this is an example of where they dropped the ball. The Sears situation you describe sounds like a mess. At least with the CARD Act, failing to notify cardholders of big rate increases isn’t allowed (except under specific circumstances, such as the cardholders being more than 60 days late).

  • Mrsas

    This may happen with any student loans as well, due to bank affliations, so make sure you monitor all that is affliated when it comes to borrowing from any banks or lenders when it comes to any financial matters.

  • Fedup Withallofthis

    The credit card companies are all a joke! I know someone that inherited 500K. At the time, they were going thru a divorce. They threw the $ in a corporation and then filed bankruptcy. No worries! Meanwhile, my husband and I paid off a mortgage but had high credit card balances due to an injury. Our credit score is in the tank now, even tho we have a paid off mortgage, always on time.

    Until transparency is an issue, we will ALL get screwed! It takes a rocket scientist to figure out the FICO rules so forget the average joe ever getting a clue.

    Bottom line, if u have MONEY, u get to play because u can pay someone to guide u. if u are broke forget about it!

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