The good and not so good of credit card reform

Because of consumer complaints Washington has reformed credit card laws. The new rules take effect on February 10th. Most are common sense reforms, according to an area marketing professor. But as Rod Rice reports, some can also have unintended consequences.

The reforms include laws that will make it more difficult for credit card companies to raise interest rates. Rice University's Vikas Mittal says that's a good thing.

"Every time they raise rates, they have to clearly let the consumer know. For example, if you're late on one payment they have to clearly let you know your rate is going to be raised. Previously it used to be that consumers would not even find out and their rates could be raised."

But because the laws don't take effect until February 10th, many companies are raising rates ahead of the reforms for everyone, even those with very good credit.

Mittal says if they can't make money on interest rates the companies may simply implement new or higher fees.

"There's already talk that a lot of international transactions are going to have hefty fees imposed on that."

And he says annual fees may make a comeback.

For years credit card companies have been almost handing out credit cards on college campuses but the new laws make it more difficult to do that. They require that anyone under 21 have a co-signer for a credit card, but Mittal says that makes it harder those under 21 who are responsible and qualify for a card to get one.

Mittal says the bottom line is that while government can impose some rules to help people avoid a credit crisis, it's also up to individuals to respect credit, understand its terms and act responsibly.

Bio photo of Rod Rice

Rod Rice

Local Anchor, Morning Edition

Rod Rice became fascinated with radio at an early age, while sitting on his Grandfather’s lap listening to his "programs" on the big Emerson Radio...