Sunday, April 19, 2009

Obama to take aim at credit card abuses

Credit cards are as much a part of American culture as apple pie. Unfortunately, many of these companies’ deceptive and often predatory practices have left many Americans dependent on these small pieces of plastic and in more debt than they can afford. Credit cards are mini quick loans by the provider, in most cases they receive payments in the form of installments at the end of the month. Some cards like many American Express cards require payment in full every month. Many of these cards start with a great introductory rate then after six months or a year depending on the period they often jump up to over 20%. If a payment is missed or late these rates often increase further to loan shark like rates. Many times these rate increases occur without warning or disclosure to the holder of the card. At this point making the interest payments alone can become difficult if the balance on the card is high enough. Taken directly from the article, “Summers, director of the White House National Economic Council, said the administration is concerned about practices that result in consumers being "deceived into paying extraordinarily high rates that they wouldn't have paid if they knew they were getting themselves into…We need to do things to stop the marketing of credit in ways that addict people to it." President Obama has begun to take steps to crack down on these types of practices that hurt American consumers and the economy as a whole. Most of these lending associations are the same companies that are receiving bailout money so they have a responsibility to stop causing direct harm to the consumers. Credit card terms are often worded in a way that the average person will not be able to decipher what they are reading, these are said to be done on purpose. The House of Representatives and the United States Senate are considering enacting a credit card “Bill of Rights” which would make a set of rules that must be followed by credit card companies. Just as recently as December the rules around credit cards were tightened by the Federal Reserve and if it is passed this will further the scope of the regulations, and hopefully protect some future users from crippling debt that credit cards can bring.

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