The credit card industry plays by new rules, starting today.
The reforms approved last spring finally go into effect. But, the new laws could end up a mixed blessing for consumers.
Sandy Fortunato was shocked when she got the letters. All three of her credit cards were raising her interest rates by 5-percent.
"I had been a good customer," Fortunato said. "I always paid my bill on time, I was never over the limit. And I just couldn't figure out why."
With her new rate at nearly 24-percent, a minimum payment of $189 jumped to $309. Something that won't happen under the new credit card law.
In most cases, it bans rate hikes on existing balances. Any increases will affect future purchases only - and come with 45
days notice. This gives customers a chance to opt out. Meaning they can close their account and pay off the balance under the old rate.
They also get more time to pay - 21 days from when their statement arrives.
The credit card industry expects to lose at least $10 billion a year because of these changes - possibly much more. That likely means card companies will find other ways to make up the loss.
In some cases, that could mean targeting customers who avoid interest rates by paying in full each month.
"We're going to see new types of fees crop up, whether it's annual fees, inactivity fees, fees for getting a paper statement," Ben Woolsey with creditcards.com said.
Many companies rushed to hike rates before the new law took effect. Which is what happened to Sandy Fortunato, and that means more time in debt.
"Out of your payment half of it - or more of it - is going to interest and not paying down the balance," Fortunato said.
The White House hopes fewer people will fall into that trap now and calls the new law a significant turning point for the American consumer.
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