The credit card industry has been doing back flips to reach the good graces of the credit consumer. And they have made a step in the right direction.
Since the passage of the Credit CARD Act in 2009, banks have been losing money, and began to charge consumers for services that used to be free. Bank of America began charging credit card users a $59 annual fee, and Chase implemented a $5 ATM fee. Well, these same banks and others, under the guidance of the CARD Act are starting to do something that actually helps pack our wallets – welcome, a decrease in credit interest rates.
Last year, millions of consumers experienced credit card interest hikes, before the passage of the Credit CARD Act due to bank scandals, an unruly economy, and pending reforms. According to Federal Reserve, the average interest rate increased almost a full percent, from 13.57 percent in 2008 to 14.31 in 2009. Credit-Land.com estimates that between 91 million and 121 million credit cards experienced rate hikes during the recession.
A section of the Credit CARD Act requires credit card companies to review any rate hikes that happened since January 2009. The law explains that if a state’s interest rate was increased due to high credit risk or market conditions, those issues had to be reconsidered every six months. The law then demands that the rates be cut when credit risk declines and market conditions improve.
By law, once the rate has been lowered it can not be raised again, according to Ken Clayton, general counsel for card policy at the American Bankers Association. The law requires banks to warn customers about rate hikes 45 days in advance and limits increases on new purchases.
But any decrease in payment can mean big savings for the consumer. According to www.Credit-Land.com the average balance on a credit card at the end of 2010 was $4,965. At a 19 percent interest rate it would take 13 years, 9 months to pay it off. Interest would be $3,894. If interest rates were cut to even 16 percent it would only take 12 years, 5 months to pay off. Interest would drop to $2,906.
Millions will feel the reprieve. Bank of America said that it will reduce the interest rate on about 1 million of its cards, according to the Associated Press. JP Morgan Chase & Co. , Citigroup Inc., Capital One Financial Corp., Discover Financial Services and American Express haven’t revealed the number of cards affected, but all confirmed that some customers will receive lower rates. If all banks changed rates on 2% of their cards like Bank of America is doing, then over 10.5 million card will be affected.
Consumers will not only see the changes in their pockets, they will also see it on their bank statements. Consumers who saw hikes in interest rates during the recession due to poor payment histories and did not reconcile their debts, will not be eligible for the reducing interest rates.