By Eileen AJ Connelly, AP Personal Finance Writer
NEW YORK (AP) — Not only have credit card companies continued to use practices that will be outlawed under a strict law due to take effect in February, in many cases their policies have gotten harsher since the law passed.
A review of nearly 400 cards offered by the largest 12 card issuers in the U.S. found nearly all contracts still allow banks to raise interest rates on outstanding balances. Most also still have penalty interest rates that can be triggered with just one or two late payments or overlimit transactions. And most still allow banks to apply payments to the lowest interest portion of balances first.
All of these policies are prohibited under the legislation, the Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility and Disclosure (or CARD) Act, which was signed by President Obama in May. Congress phased in the provisions to give credit card companies time to adjust their policies, but is now considering moving the effective date up to Dec. 1, because of continued complaints from consumers.
"It's clear that until the law takes effect, or Congress accelerates the implementation date of the law, these practices are going to continue to be out there," said Nick Bourke, co-author of the study done by the Pew Charitable Trusts' Safe Credit Cards Project. "Once it takes full effect next year, it's going to stop a lot of unfair and deceptive practices."The biggest change, he said, will be that banks won't be able to do things like change interest rates or other terms without warning the card holder. "Right now, the credit card company can rewrite the contract at any time," Bourke said.