New Credit Card Rules: What You Need to Know

Additionally, if a consumer is more than 60 days late making a payment, then the credit card company can increase the interest rate. But if the consumer then makes on-time payments for the following six months, the company must roll back the interest rate to the previous level, Hobson said.

Also, consumers can no longer be charged an additional fee for paying over the phone, by an electronic transfer or by mail, Hobson said. An extra charge will only apply if the consumer uses live services to expedite a payment.

Although the Credit CARD Act now requires 45 days notification of account changes, Hobson said it is still the consumer's responsibility to monitor all of the terms of their credit card statement.

Web Only Tip: Universal Default

The practice of universal default is also banned for existing credit card balances, Hobson said. This is when a card user's interest rate is increased based upon payment records for unrelated accounts, such as utility bills.

Changes Affect College Students

The last thing a college student needs is more debt. A Sallie Mae study found that in 2008, college seniors with at least one credit card graduated with an average of $4,138 in credit card debt.

To protect young people from incurring debt the Credit CARD Act has made it more difficult for college students to get a credit card, Hobson said.

Credit card companies can no longer offer a card to someone under 21 without a co-signer or proof of proper income, Hobson explained. Nor can the company increase the limit on the card unless both the co-signer and the student agree. Offering inducements to sign up for cards - such as free t-shirts or beach towels – on or near a campus are also banned.

Hobson recommends that if your child does need a card, to add him or her as an authorized user on your own credit card.

Being an authorized user will help teach them to live within their means and also help them build up their credit history and could improve their credit score if you make on-time payments, Hobson said.

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