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Attention  .  .  .  on December 1, 2015  new bankruptcy forms go into effect.  The changes are extensive but no worries - our bankruptcy software automatically updates all changes in bankruptcy law including the forms.

The Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure Act (CARD Act) set forth new rules for credit card issuers (banks) that are the most consumer-protective in the history of credit cards.  Unfortunately it took so long for this Act to be approved that credit card issuers were able to devise loopholes. 

Here is a summary of this new Act:

Right to Reject. 
Pre-approved cardholders can reject any credit card (before activation) without hurting their credit.

Everlasting Gift Cards. 
Gift cards no longer expire & dormancy and inactivity fees cannot be charged.

45 Day Notice of Increased Interest Rates. 
Increased interest rates cannot be retroactive.  Must give 45-day notice of pending rate or fee hikes or any other significant changes to credit card terms. Cardholders can cancel their account before new (significantly higher) interest rates take effect.

Finance Charges & Interest-Rate Hikes. 
No rate increases for the first 12 months.  A six-month minimum promotional-rate period.  Rate increases can only be applied to new charges.  Annual and application fees cannot exceed 25% of the initial credit line.  No more double-cycle billing. 

No more over-limit fees, unless the cardholder opts in. 
No fees to make credit card payments online or over the phone, unless you make a payment on your due date.

Exceptions, Caveats, Loopholes.   Rate hikes are allowed if you're more than 60 days late.  Some banks have already found a way around the rate-hike issue, by increasing card users' regular interest rates to as high as 29.9% and then refunding a part of that rate for each month that the customer pays on time.  Double-cycle billing, although prohibited, can technically still exist for credit cards that don't have grace periods.  Issuers have been calling consumers asking them to opt in for over limit fees in exchange for lowering that fee.

Billing Statements, Payments & Disclosures. 
Billing statements must be sent 21 days before due date.  Your due date should be the same date each month.  Payments are considered on time when received by 5 p.m. on the due date or the next business day after a holiday or weekend.  Payments above the minimum must be applied to the highest-rate balance first.  Each monthly statement must include information on how long it would take you to pay off your balance if you make minimum payments only and the total you'll pay, including interest and principal; and how much you need to pay each month in order to pay off your balance in 36 months and the total you'll pay, including interest and principal.  Statements must also include a warning that by making only minimum payments you will pay more interest and it will take you longer to pay off your debt, as well as a toll-free number to call if you want to be referred to a credit-counseling service.

Exceptions, caveats, loopholes.  If you make a purchase under a "deferred-interest" plan (such as "No interest for six months," for example), the company may let you choose to apply extra amounts to the deferred-interest balance. Otherwise, for two billing cycles before the end of the promotional period, your entire payment must be applied to that balance.

College Students and Young Adults. 
No credit cards for students under 21 unless co-signed by a parent or they can demonstrate ability to pay.  No credit limit increases if you are under 21 and have a co-signer without that co-signer's permission.  No credit card marketing and students are not required to fill out applications to receive freebies.  Colleges must post any affiliation on their website with a bank offering credit cards to students.

Exceptions, Caveats, Loopholes.  Issuers will likely start appealing to parents to co-sign their children's credit cards. The Federal Reserve has specified that card issuers have the option of keeping the parent on the hook even after the young person turns 21.  Issuers are still allowed to set up shop near popular off-campus venues and offer freebies to everyone, whether or not they apply.





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