How many of you have really taken the time to understand your credit card account? Before I started working in this area of the law, I never did. When I got a bill, I just paid it. If the interest rate changed, I just accepted it. If a fee was assessed, I just assumed it was correct. Now I regret not paying better attention since I could have saved myself some money.
You may have noticed some changes to your credit card bill in 2010. Supposedly the bills are now easier to read, simpler to understand, and provide more accessible information to you about things such as interest rates and fees.
These changes were due to the implementation of the Credit CARD Act of 2010. While this Act has improved transparency and fairness in consumer credit, the responsibility still falls on you to carefully review your statements and protect yourself. Review the so-called “cardholder agreement” – the tiny pamphlet with tiny writing that outlines the terms of the credit agreement that you sometimes find with your statement. If you don’t have it, go online to your credit card company’s website and find the current version. Lenders are required to disclose credit terms in clear, plain language.
In addition to becoming familiar with the terms of that agreement, educate yourself on your rights as a consumer. Some of the terms in that agreement may be contrary to state or federal consumer laws and you may have a claim against the credit card company for violations of the law.
My advice is to spend some time getting to know your credit card. Read the fine print on the back of the statement and in the cardholder agreement. Review your monthly statements and question any fees that are assessed or interest rates that are increased. If you have questions, call your lender and ask for an explanation. If their explanation does not help, see a consumer protection attorney or call your state attorney general for more information.