Senate to consider credit card reforms

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One-fifth of people with credit card debt pay an interest rate above 20 percent, according to the the Government Accountability Office

That fact alone has led lawmakers to consider legislation that would impose tougher restrictions on credit card companies.The Credit Cardholders’ Bill of Rights would limit companies’ abilities to increase interest rates and use double-billing cycles. The bill also would require that companies notify consumers 45 days before an interest rate increase, and explain how the change will affect existing balances.

The measure will be debated in the Senate this week, where a stricter version inhibits the ability of card companies to raise rates on late-payers or those with shaky credit histories.

The following measures were included by request of the White House:

  • Requirements that payments must first be applied to the debt with the highest interest rate.
  • Mandatory annual review by the Federal Reserve to assess the effects of the bill on interest rates, annual fees and denial of new credit cards.
  • On each bill, companies must disclose the long-term costs of paying only the minimum balance.
  • Promotional rates on new cards must be valid for a minimum of six months.
  • Terms of the credit card agreement are to be posted on the card issuer’s Web site.