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Senate Passes Legislation To Restrict Credit Card Companies

Posted By admin || 20-May-2009

According to an article in the Star-Telegram, the Senate voted to pass legislation (90-5) that would rein in credit card rate increases and fees.

The article said:

"This is a victory for every American consumer who has ever suffered at the hands of a credit card company," said Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., chairman of the Banking Committee...

If it is enacted into law as expected, the credit card industry would have nine months to change the way it does business: Lenders would have to post their credit card agreements on the Internet and let customers pay their bills online or by phone without an added fee. They'd also have to give consumers a chance to spare themselves from over-the-limit fees and provide 45 days' notice and an explanation before interest rates are increased.

Many Americans are literally drowning in so much credit card debt that they have no choice but to file bankruptcy.  When a debtor is facing foreclosure or other financial difficulties they often use their credit cards to pay for emergencies or even everyday expenses, especially if they have suffered a job loss. They try to juggle the minimum payments on multiple credit cards; but often it's simply impossible and they often end up over-the-limit on one or more credit cards.

Once that occurs, it's a vicious downward cycle as fees pile up on their credit card.  Eventually, many debtors are faced with a choice, pay the mortgage or pay the credit card.  Of course the obvious choice is to pay their mortgage and avoid foreclosure if possible. Also, many debtors are forced to default or pay late on one or more credit cards (or other bills reported to the credit reporting agencies) triggering what's called "universal default" which can send the interest rate on current credit cards skyrocketing.  Once this happens the debt can balloon so fast and so large that it becomes impossible to repay.  Fortunately, the Senate bill addresses this issue.

For example, under the bill, a cardholder would have to opt to be allowed to go over a credit limit. If customers don't agree and the bank authorizes a charge that would push them over their limit, the lender couldn't levy an over-limit fee.

Another boon for consumers is limiting a practice known as "universal default," when a lender sharply increases a cardholder's interest rate on an existing balance because the customer is late paying that bill or other, unrelated bills. Under the new legislation, a customer would have to be more than 60 days behind on a payment before seeing a rate increase on an existing balance. Even then, the credit card company would be required to restore the previous, lower rate after six months if the cardholder pays the minimum balance on time.

If this legislation is passed into law, debtors will have at their disposal one more law to protect them from the pitfalls of credit cards.  If you're facing mounting credit card debt, bankruptcy can help you discharge credit card debt and other debts.  A bankruptcy discharge means that your debt is forgiven and you are not obligated to repay it.  Don't allow credit card debt to sink you financially, contact a Dallas-Fort Worth bankruptcy attorney for more information on how you can make bankruptcy work for you.

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