Banks Race to Raise Rates on Credit Cards

Banks anticipate losses of $50 billion when new credit card rules take effect.

Jan. 4, 2010— -- Consumer advocates say the race is on, as banks and credit card companies look for ways to make up the estimated $50 billion they're about to lose when new credit card rules take effect.

But now, in many cases, those advocates say, the banks are targeting consumers' credit cards to make up their losses.

"The wholesale raising of interest rates, I've seen 12, 15 percent," said Adam Levin of the credit education site "There's no questions they were front-running the laws."

Along with higher rates and new fees, one bank is even charging for a monthly paper statement.

ABC News called several banks today for comment, but received only emailed responses.

"We understand that customers don't like price increases, especially in difficult economic times," a spokesperson for Citi wrote. "However, these actions are necessary given customers not paying back their loans and regulatory changes."

Bank of America said in an email that it was not raising rates, "unless the account is late on two or more payments" within any 12 months.

The American Bankers Association said customers are getting a fair warning before any interest rate hikes on their current credit cards.

"Consumers must get a 45-day advance notice, which gives them lots of time to find another card and to have the option to the decline the increase," American Bankers Association vice president Nessa Feddis said.

But if consumers decline that rate hike, in many cases, they can be dropped.

Credit CARD Act of 2009

Last year, Congress passed the Credit CARD Act of 2009 in an effort to protect consumers from what the Federal Reserve called "unfair or deceptive" practices.

The Credit CARD Act regulations began with two rules. Consumers must be given advance warning of any major changes to the terms of their accounts, and get more time to pay their balance after receiving a bill.

In February, more regulations will go into effect that mandate reviews every six months of accounts that have had rate hikes and that limit the amount of credit that can be offered to students.

The law was designed to give consumers expanded protections, fewer fees and more clarity, but in the meantime, consumer advocates say, the bank and credit card companies are aggressively trying to find new ways to raise revenue quickly.