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Credit Cards

More Disclosure on Credit-Card Statements

Proposed regulations would make credit-card companies give more information to cardholders.

To make sure you understand your credit-card issuers' fees and terms, the Federal Reserve Board has proposed a number of changes to its Regulation Z, which governs the look and content of credit-card solicitations and monthly statements.

The proposed changes would require that credit-card companies give 45 days' notice, not just 15, before increasing your interest rate or changing terms. Issuers would have to disclose how long it takes to pay off a balance if you make only the minimum payment. The term "fixed rate" would be banned unless the rate really may not increase under any circumstances or the information that you receive spells out how long the rate is in effect.

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Issuers would have to include a box on your statement that spells out what actions could trigger a penalty, the changes in rates and balances that would apply, and when the penalty rate would expire. The rules would also require a new disclosure that explains to consumers what they'll really pay when they carry over a balance to a card with a low, introductory rate and then make purchases on the new card.

Consumer groups believe that these disclosures are inadequate and that Congress needs to address what they consider the biggest abuses. Travis Plunkett, a spokesman for the Consumer Federation of America explains, "Although these changes improve the information that companies must provide, it will take legislation to deal with the explosion of fees and the practice of charging higher rates retroactively."

The new regulations are up for comment until September 23. To comment yourself or read others' submissions, go to the Federal Reserve's Web site.

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