Here's How To Beat Credit Card Companies

Last Updated Sep 30, 2010 3:14 PM EDT

The new Credit CARD Act that went into effect this year doesn't mean that you're off the hook for watching your back. Some card issuers are finding sneaky ways around the new rules, says John Ulzheimer, head of consumer education for

John says that consumers need to watch out for the following:
Weekend charging: The new rules say if a due date falls on a weekend or holiday when the bank is closed, you can pay your bill on the next business day and not be hit with a late fee. But banks are keeping a few branches open on weekends, just so they can charge that fees.

ACTION: If your due date falls on a holiday or a weekend and you want to avoid a late fee, pick up the phone and ask your bank whether they have branches open. Or better yet, beat the due date by a week - then you won't have to worry about it.

Fee and rate changes: Credit card companies must notify you 45 days in advance of rate changes and you can actually opt out of the change. But be careful: If you carry a balance and you opt out, they can close the account and accelerate the payback by increasing your minimum monthly payments. It may make the payment unaffordable.

ACTION: Read all notices from the card companies! According to a survey, 97% of customers ignore them.

College gotchas: The new rules say that if you're under 21, you can't get a credit card unless you have a parent co-sign or can show proof of a job that would allow you to pay your bills. But just like getting a senior to buy your booze, card companies often look the other way when classmates act as co-signers.

ACTION: Parents need to warn/threaten their children about this loophole!
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    Jill Schlesinger, CFP®, is the Editor-at-Large for CBS MoneyWatch. She covers the economy, markets, investing or anything else with a dollar sign. Prior to the launch of MoneyWatch in 2009, Jill was the chief investment officer for an independent investment advisory firm. In her infancy, she was an options trader on the Commodities Exchange of New York.



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