Credit Card, Bank Fee Hikes Spark Outrage

Citigroup, which has received $50 billion TARP funds -- the most of any bank -- declined a request for comment.

The American Banking Association defended the banking industry today.

"I think the key thing to recognize is that what banks are doing is reacting to broader economic forces, the fact that we are in a recession," said ABA spokesman Peter Garuccio. "Whether we like it or not we're all less credit worthy today than we were just a few months ago."

Garuccio said that it's become harder for banks to fund credit card lines because it's more difficult to package credit card loans and sell them as securities.

"Roughly 50 percent of all credit card loans are funded through securitization," he said. "Because of the freeze up that has occurred in the capital markets that source of funding is relatively dry now."

Help for Credit Card Customers?

There is some relief on the way for credit card holders. Late last year, the Federal Reserve created new rules to protect cardholders from some interest rate hikes.

The rules include a restriction that will allow credit card companies to raise rates on existing credit card balances only when card holders are more than 30 days late, when they are receiving a promotional interest rate with a defined expiration date, or if the interest rate is tied to a specific market index, such as the London Interbank Offered Rate. Under the restriction, card companies would still be able to raise interest rates on new charges.

Bank Customers Close Accounts

The rules, however, don't go into effect until next year. For now, Congress is considering legislation that would impose similar rules sooner.

Some aren't waiting for government help to address their credit card troubles: They're closing their accounts.

"I believe the banks are not considering that the consumer can change banks, and I can assure you that I will," wrote Mary Wiles of Topeka, Kan. "It is like a slap in the face and I take it very personally."

For more on what you can do about high credit card interest rates, check out the latest column from ABC News consumer correspondent Elisabeth Leamy.

With reports from ABC News' Charles Herman and Justin Rood.

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