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Credit Card Rate Hikes Not Always Obvious to Consumers

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Washington, DCPeople like to think they know all the 'ins and outs' of the contracts they sign, but credit card contracts are often written in language that confuses consumers. Many of the clauses in the contracts give credit card companies the ability to suddenly raise credit cards rates with little or no notice to the customer. Lawsuits against some credit card issuers are forcing them to deal more fairly with their consumers.

Credit cardAccording to an article at U.S. News & World Report, there are five nasty practices that consumers do not know credit card companies engage in. They all cost consumers extra money and can affect people's credit scores, yet many people are unaware of these practices. Those five practices, as well as some additional cash grabs, are:

1) Universal default - Universal default occurs when a person is late with a payment for a bill or goes over limit on a credit card but has interest rates hiked on a different credit card. Although some companies have said they will no longer use universal default, it is still a common industry practice.

2) Retroactive charges - Credit card companies that choose to increase a customer's interest rate can also apply that rate to past charges. This means that anything that still appears on a customer's credit card can be subjected to a higher interest rate, even if it was purchased months ago.

3) Double-cycle billing - Also known as two-cycle billing, some credit card companies charge interest on the average daily balance of two months rather than one. For a customer who has carried a balance from one month to the next but still paid part of the amount owing, this means that he will pay interest on the portion he paid as well as the portion he carried over.

4) Grace periods - Customers may think they have a 30-day grace period for paying for an item without interest; however, this is only true for customers who pay the bill in full. Even if one percent of the bill is not paid then interest will be charged on 100 percent of the item.

5) Payment charges - Many companies now charge a fee for customers who pay by the phone or use online payment methods.

6) Payment due times - Some companies not only have a payment due date but also a due time. Customers that are even a few minutes late are charged a late payment fee.

7) Multi-tiered interest rates - Some credit card issuers charge different interest rates for purchases, cash advances, balance transfers and other transactions. However, they may apply a payment to the transactions with the lowest interest rate first, allowing higher-interest balances to sit on the card.

8) Over-limit fees - Credit card companies approve transactions that will put a person over their credit limit and are then charge an over-limit fee for that transaction, rather than having the transaction declined. Furthermore, over-limit fees are being charged in instances where the credit card company has charged a fee to the card (for example, a fee for a late payment) that has put the card over the limit or in cases where the interest rate has suddenly been increased, thanks to universal default, and the new interest charges put the customer over-limit.

New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo has reached a settlement agreement for over $4.5 million with First Premier Bank and Premier Bankcard. The agreement will settle an inquiry into illegal billing and deceptive marketing allegedly practiced by the companies. First Premier was accused of marketing cards as having no processing fees but charging $178 to process a card. The company also allegedly told customers they were pre-approved for up to $1,000 or more but then extended customers credit cards with limits of $300.

An article in the Argus Leader gives an account of a man who was approved for a credit card with a $250 limit but First Premier automatically charged an up-front fee of $178, reducing the credit line to $70. The man canceled his cards, but First Premier still imposed finance charges, causing his balance to skyrocket to $1,000.

Lawsuits are being investigated against credit card companies who use unfair means to generate revenue. If you have been hit with a sudden unfair rate hike, contact a lawyer to discuss your options.

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Credit Card Rate Hikes Legal Help

If you have been a victim of any unfair practices by your credit card company, including substantial rate increases, unfair penalties or broken promises, and would like to take a stand by participating in an action against them, please contact a lawyer involved in a possible [Credit Card Abuse Lawsuit] who will review your case at no cost or obligation.

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