1999 - 2000 Credit Card Survey

 

PLEASE NOTE: This survey is not current, and should be used only as a guide. For up-to-date rate information, we suggest that you contact credit card issuers directly or visit www.bankrate.com or www.cardtrak.com.

Table of Contents

The 10 lowest rate cards with annual fees found in CA's survey

Bank Fees APR*
Pulaski Bank & Trust $68 7.99%
Wachovia Bank $88 8.25%
Key Bank $30 8.90%
Ohio Savings Bank $18 9.00%
Huntington Direct Bank $39 9.25%
Pulaski Bank & Trust $35 9.45%
Simmons First National $35 9.50%
Amalgamated Bank of Chicago $37 11.00%
Amtrust Bank & BankBoston $18 12.00%
Wells Fargo Bank $18 12.25%

Note: Some banks offer more than one card or interest rate.

* APR = Annual percentage rate

The 10 lowest rate cards with NO annual fees found in CA survey

Bank APR*
Fleet Bank & Providian Aria 7.99%
NextBank 8.99%
Capital One & First USA 9.90%
American Express Blue, Bank One & NextCard Plus 9.99%
First Internet Bank 10.00%
Republic National Bank 11.15%
Bank of Canton (California only) 11.50%
First Internet Bank 12.00%
Main Street Bank and Union Federal Savings Bank 12.90%
American Express Blue, Central Carolina Bank and Providan Aria 12.99%

Note: Some banks offer more than one card or interest rate.

* APR = Annual percentage rate

1999 Credit Card Survey

You are prohibited from using Consumer Action's name or any reference to its surveys in advertising or for any other commercial purpose.

PLEASE NOTE: This survey is not current, and should be used only as a guide. For up-to-date rate information, we suggest that you contact credit card issuers directly or visit www.bankrate.com or www.cardtrak.com.

  • APR - Annual Percentage Rate
  • (Var) - Variable interest rate
  • (Fix) - Fixed interest rate
  • * (Asterisk) - See note in Additional Information Column

Definitions:

Grace Period: The number of days after the close of the last billing cycle in which you can pay off new bills without being charged interest-if there is no prior balance. Unless otherwise noted, cards have a 25-day grace period.

Annual Percentage Rate: The finance charge expressed in terms of an annual figure, a percentage of the amount owed. APRs listed are for purchases-cash advances often carry a higher APR.

Notes:

* Survey conducted during Oct. 1-Nov. 15, 1999.

* Survey does not include teaser rates. (See list of teaser rates available at the time of the survey.)

* For variable rates, the APR may not reflect recent changes in the index, such as the Prime or Federal Discount Rates. (Prime Rate was 8.25% during this survey.)


AFBA Industrial Bank • (888) 277-0444


  • Annual Fee : None
  • APR : 13.15% (Var)
  • Additional Information : Cash advance fee: 2%/$2 min./$10 max. Late fee: $15. No over the limit fee. APR is Prime + 4.9%.

Amalgamated Bank of Chicago • (800) 723-0303


  • Annual Fee : $37
  • APR : 11.00% (Var)
  • Additional Information : Cash advance fee: 2.5%/$2.50 min./$30 max. Late fee: $25. Over the limit fee: $20. APR is Prime + 2.75%.

Amalgamated #2

  • Annual Fee : None
  • APR : 14.20% (Var)
  • Additional Information : Terms same as above. APR is Prime + 6%.

American Express • (800) 962-7227


Blue

  • Annual Fee : None
  • APR : 9.99%* (Var)
  • Additional Information : Grace Period: 30 days. Cash advance fee: 3%/$3 min. Late fee: $0-$29 (depends on state law). Over the limit fee: $0-$29 (depends on state law). APR is Prime + 1.74%. *All Blue card rates are based on applicant's credit history.

Blue #2

  • Annual Fee : None
  • APR : 12.99%* (Var)
  • Additional Information : Terms same as above. APR is Prime +4.74%.

Blue #3

  • Annual Fee : None
  • APR : 15.99%* (Var)
  • Additional Information : Terms same as above. APR is Prime +4.74%.

Optima

  • Annual Fee : None
  • APR : 16.24% (Var)
  • Additional Information : Grace Period: 20-25 days. Other terms same as above. APR is Prime +7.99%.

Amtrust Bank • (888) 268-7878


Standard Card

  • Annual Fee : $18
  • APR : 12.00% (Var)
  • Additional Information : Cash advance fee: 2%. Late fee: $15. Over the limit fee: 2% of balance. APR is Prime + 3.75%.

Amtrust #2

  • Annual Fee : None
  • APR : 14.75% (Fix)
  • Additional Information : Terms same as above.

Associates National Bank • (800) 435-9982


Classic Card

  • Annual Fee : None
  • APR : 19.24% (Var)
  • Additional Information : Cash advance fee: 3%/$5 min. Late fee: $29. Over the limit fee: $29. APR is Prime + 14.99%.

Standard Card

  • Annual Fee : None
  • APR : 25.24% (Var)
  • Additional Information : Cash advance fee: %4. Other terms same as above. APR is Prime +16.99%.

AT&T Universal Card • (800) 662-7759


Standard Card

  • Annual Fee : None
  • APR : 16.90% (Var)
  • Additional Information : Cash advance fee: 3%/$5 min. Late fee: $29. Over the limit fee: $29. APR is LIBOR (5.9% during survey) +11.9%.

Banco Popular • (800) 311-7451


Standard Card

  • Annual Fee : None
  • APR : 14.90% (Var)
  • Additional Information : Cash advance fee: 4%/$5 min. Late fee: $29. Over the limit fee: $29. APR is Prime + 6.65%.

Banco Popular #2

  • Annual Fee : $30-$35
  • APR : 17.15% (Var)
  • Additional Information : Terms same as above. APR is Prime +8.9%.

Bank of America • (800) 200-7119


Standard Card

  • Annual Fee : None
  • APR : 15.24% (Var)
  • Additional Information : Grace period: 20 days. Cash advance fee: 3%. Late fee: $29. Over the limit fee: $29. APR is Prime + 6.99%.

Rewards Card

  • Annual Fee : None
  • APR : 17.24% (Var)
  • Additional Information : Terms same as above. APR is Prime +8.99%.

Travel Choices

  • Annual Fee : $25
  • APR : 17.24% (Var)
  • Additional Information : Terms same as above. APR is Prime +8.99%.

Bank of Canton • (415) 362-4100


  • Annual Fee : None
  • APR : 11.50% (Fix)
  • Additional Information : Cash advance fee: 2% 1st time only. Late fee: $5. Over the limit fee: $10. Available only to CA residents.

Bank One • (800) 945-2006


Standard Card

  • Annual Fee : None
  • APR : 9.99% (Fix)
  • Additional Information : Grace period: 20-25 days. Cash advance fee: 3%/$10 min. Late fee: $29. Over the limit fee: $25.

BankBoston • (800) 788-5000


Standard Card

  • Annual Fee : None
  • APR : 16.15% (Var)
  • Additional Information : Cash advance fee: 2%/$3.50 min. Late fee: $29. Over the limit fee: $29. APR is Prime+7.9%.

BankBoston #2

  • Annual Fee : $18
  • APR : 12.00% (Var)
  • Additional Information : Terms same as above. APR is Prime +3.75%.

Capital One • (800) 553-2194


Standard Card

  • Annual Fee : None
  • APR : 9.90% (Fix)
  • Additional Information : Cash advance fee: 2.5%/$2.50 min. Late fee: $29. Over the limit fee: $29.

Capital One #2

  • Annual Fee : $39
  • APR : 19.80% (Fix)
  • Additional Information : Terms same as above.

Central Carolina Bank • (800) 362-6299


  • Annual Fee : None
  • APR : 12.99% (Fix)
  • Additional Information : Cash advance fee: 2%/$2 min./$25 max. Late fee: $29. Over the limit fee: $29.

Chase Manhattan Bank • (800) 724-7819


  • Annual Fee : None
  • APR : 17.74% (Var)
  • Additional Information : Cash advance fee: 3%/$3 min. Late fee: $29. Over the limit fee: $29. APR is Prime + 9.49%.

WalMart Card • (800) 858-3100


  • Annual Fee : None
  • APR : 14.48% (Fix)
  • Additional Information : Cash advance fee: 3%/$5 min. Late fee: $29. Over the limit fee: $29.

Citibank • (800) 950-5114


Basic Card

  • Annual Fee : None
  • APR : 16.15% (Var)
  • Additional Information : Grace period: 20-25 days. Cash advance fee: 3%/$5 min. Late fee: $29. Over the limit fee: $29. APR is Prime + 7.9%.

Citizens Bank • (800) 545-7899


  • Annual Fee : None
  • APR : 14.99% (Fix)
  • Additional Information : Cash advance fee: 2%/$2 min. Late fee: $29. Over the limit fee: $29.

Columbus Bank & Trust • (800) 543-8227


  • Annual Fee : $25*
  • APR : 15.75% (Var)
  • Additional Information : Cash advance fee: 2%. Late fee: $25. Over the limit fee: $25. APR is Prime + 7.5%. (*Annual fee waived if card used at least 6 times per year.)

Comerica Bank • (800) 292-1300


Standard Card

  • Annual Fee : None
  • APR : 16.75% (Fix)
  • Additional Information : Cash advance fee: 2.5%/$2.50 min./$20 max. Late fee: $29. Over the limit fee: $29.

Comerica Bank #2

  • Annual Fee : None
  • APR : 16.40% (Var)
  • Additional Information : Terms same as above. APR is LIBOR (5.9% during survey) + 10.5%.

Commerce Bank (New Jersey) • (800) 937-2000


  • Annual Fee : None
  • APR : 16.90% (Fix)
  • Additional Information : Grace period: 30 days. No cash advance fee. Late fee: 5%75¢ min./$5 max. Over the limit fee: $5. Available only in NJ, PA, & DE.

Commerce Bank (Kansas City) • (800) 645-2103


  • Annual Fee : None
  • APR : 14.15% (Var)
  • Additional Information : Cash advance fee: 3%/$3 min. Late fee: $29. Over the limit fee: $29. APR is Prime 5.9%.

Crestar Bank • (800) 368-7700


  • Annual Fee : $20
  • APR : 15.15% (Var)
  • Additional Information : Cash advance fee: 2.5%/$2.50 min. Late fee: $25. Over the limit fee: $25. APR is Prime + 6.9%.

Elan Financial Services • (800) 274-3243


Standard Card

  • Annual Fee : None*
  • APR : 18.15% (Var)
  • Additional Information : Cash advance fee: 2%/$2 min./$20 max. Late fee: $29. Over the limit fee: $20. APR is Prime + 9.9%. (*Fee waived if card is used at least once a year.)

Elan #2

  • Annual Fee : $20
  • APR : 16.15% (Var)
  • Additional Information : Terms same as above. APR is Prime + 7.9%. (*No annual fee in first year.)

Fidelity National Bank • (800) 753-2900


Classic

  • Annual Fee : None
  • APR : 14.90% (Fix)
  • Additional Information : Grace period: 23 days. Cash advance fee: 4%. Late fee: $25. Over the limit fee: $25.

First Consumers National Bank • (800) 876-3262


  • Annual Fee : None
  • APR : 18.95% (Fix)
  • Additional Information : Cash advance fee: 2.3%/$3 min. Late fee: $29. Over the limit fee: $29.

First Internet Bank • (888) 873-3424


Standard Card

  • Annual Fee : None
  • APR : 10.00% (Fix)
  • Additional Information : No grace period. Cash advance fee: 1.5%/$2 min. Late fee: $15.50. Over the limit fee: $20.

First Internet Bank #2

  • Annual Fee : None
  • APR : 12.00% (Fix)
  • Additional Information : Grace period: 25 days. Other terms same as above.

First National Bank of South Dakota • (800) 688-7070


  • Annual Fee : None
  • APR : 17.90% (Var)
  • Additional Information : Cash advance fee: 3%/$3 min./$50 max. Late fee: $29. Over the limit fee: $29. APR is LIBOR (5.9% during survey) + 12%.

First Star Bank • (800) 999-0619


Classic Card

  • Annual Fee : None*
  • APR : 18.15% (Var)
  • Additional Information : Cash advance fee: 2%/$2 min. /$20 max. Late fee: $29. Over the limit fee: $20. APR is Prime + 9.9%. *Fee waived if card is used at least once a year.

First Star Bank #2

  • Annual Fee : $20*
  • APR : 16.15% (Var)
  • Additional Information : Terms same as above. APR is Prime + 7.9%. *No annual fee in first year.

First Union Bank • (800)377-3404


  • Annual Fee : None
  • APR : 16.15% (Var)
  • Additional Information : Cash advance fee: 2.95%/$2.95 min. Late fee: $29. Over the limit fee: $29. APR is Prime + 7.9%.

First USA Bank • (800) 955-9900


  • Annual Fee : None
  • APR : 9.90% (Fix)
  • Additional Information : Grace period: 20-25 days. Cash advance fee: 2%/$10 min. Late fee: $29. Over the limit fee: $29.

Fleet Bank • (800) 225-5353


  • Annual Fee : None
  • APR : 7.99% (Fix)
  • Additional Information : Cash advance fee: 4%/$5 min. Late fee: $29. Over the limit fee: $29.

Greenwood Trust Co. • (800) 347-2683


Discover

  • Annual Fee : None
  • APR : 16.99% *(Fix)
  • Additional Information : Grace period: 30 days. Cash advance fee: 2.5%/$3 min. Late fee: $29. Over the limit fee: $29. *Rate based on applicant's credit history.

Discover #2

  • Annual Fee : None
  • APR : 18.99%* (Fix)
  • Additional Information : Terms same as above.

Discover #3

  • Annual Fee : None
  • APR : 20.99%* (Fix)
  • Additional Information : Terms same as above.

Private Issue Card • (800) 474-2273


Standard Card

  • Annual Fee : None
  • APR : 14.99%* (Fix)
  • Additional Information : Terms same as above.

Private Issue #2

  • Annual Fee : None
  • APR : 17.99%* (Fix)
  • Additional Information : Terms same as above.

Household Bank • (800) 477-6000


  • Annual Fee : None
  • APR : 18.40% (Var)
  • Additional Information : Cash advance fee: 3%. Late fee: $29. Over the limit fee: $29. APR is Prime + 10.15%.

GM Rewards Card • (800) 846-2273


  • Annual Fee : None
  • APR : 18.74% (Var)
  • Additional Information : Cash advance fee: 3%/$15 min. Other terms same as above. APR is Prime + 10.49%. (Offers 5% rebate--$500 per year--on purchases to be used as a credit towards a new GM vehicle.)

Huntington Direct Bank • (800) 480-2265


Prime Plus Standard Card

  • Annual Fee : None
  • APR : 16.15% (Var)
  • Additional Information : Cash advance fee: 2%/$2 min. Late fee: $29. Over the limit fee: $29. APR is Prime + 7.9%.

Prime Preferred Standard Card

  • Annual Fee : $39
  • APR : 9.25% (Var)
  • Additional Information : Terms same as above. APR is Prime + 1%.

Key Bank • (800) 539-2968


Key Smart Classic Card

  • Annual Fee : $30
  • APR : 8.90%* (Fix)
  • Additional Information : Cash advance fee: 3%/$5 min./$50 max. Late fee: $29. Over the limit fee: $29. Not available in some states. *This internet rate available only to cardholders who agree to pay 5% of their outstanding balance each month.

Key Bank #2

  • Annual Fee : $30
  • APR : 12.90%* (Fix)
  • Additional Information : *This rate is for cardholders who pay 3% of their outstanding balance each month. Other terms same as above.

Key Bank #3

  • Annual Fee : $30
  • APR : 16.50%* (Fix)
  • Additional Information : *This rate is for cardholders who pay 1% of their outstanding balance each month. Other terms same as above.

Liberty Savings Bank • (800) 285-7365


  • Annual Fee : None
  • APR : 13.90% (Fix)
  • Additional Information : No cash advance fee. Late fee: $15. Over the limit fee: $15. Card available only in CO,FL, OH and SC.

Main Street Bank • (888) 712-7915


  • Annual Fee : None
  • APR : 12.90% (Fix)
  • Additional Information : Cash advance fee: 3%/$5 min. Late fee: $25. Over the limit fee: $25.

MBNA America Bank • (800) 932-2775


The America's Card

  • Annual Fee : None
  • APR : 16.99% (Fix)
  • Additional Information : Cash advance fee: 2%/$2 min./$25 max. Late fee: $29. Over the limit fee: $29.

Mellon Bank • (800) 774-2173


  • Annual Fee : None
  • APR : 16.15% (Var)
  • Additional Information : Grace period: 20 days. Cash advance fee: 3%/$5 min. Late fee: $29. Over the limit fee: $29. APR is Prime + 7.9%.

Mercantile Bank • (800) 755-4070


Standard Card

  • Annual Fee : None
  • APR : 19.24% (Var)
  • Additional Information : Cash advance fee: 3%. Late fee: $29. Over the limit fee: $29. APR is Prime + 10.99%.

Mercantile Bank #2

  • Annual Fee : None
  • APR : 15.24% (Var)
  • Additional Information : Terms sames as above. APR is Prime + 6.99%.

Metropolitan Bank & Trust • (888) 775-7649


  • Annual Fee : None
  • APR : 13.90% (Fix)
  • Additional Information : Cash advance fee: 2%/$10 min. Late fee: $20. Over the limit fee: $20.

National City Bank • (800) 423-3883


  • Annual Fee : None
  • APR : 15.74% (Var)
  • Additional Information : Grace period: 30 days. Cash advance fee: 3%/$3 min. Late fee: $29. Over the limit fee: $29. APR is Prime + 7.49%. Not available in CA or NY.

Next Bank (Internet applications only)


Next Bank Horizon Card

  • Annual Fee : None
  • APR : 22.99%(Fix*)
  • Additional Information : Cash advance fee: 2.%/$2 min./$20 max. Late fee: $7-$15, depending on days late. Over the limit fee: $10--charged only when new balance exceeds credit limit by $500 or more. *APR may increase as high as 23.24% if payments are late or account is over the limit.

Standard Card

  • Annual Fee : None
  • APR : 8.99% (Fix*)
  • Additional Information : Terms same as above.

NextCard Plus

  • Annual Fee : None
  • APR : 9.99% (Fix*)
  • Additional Information : Terms same as above.

Ohio Savings Bank • (800) 987-6446


Classic Fixed Card

  • Annual Fee : None
  • APR : 14.75% (Fix)
  • Additional Information : Cash advance fee: 2%. Late fee: $15. Over the limit fee: $20.

Variable Rate Card

  • Annual Fee : $18
  • APR : 12.00% (Var)
  • Additional Information : Terms same as above. APR is Prime + 3.75%.

Variable Card No Fee

  • Annual Fee : None
  • APR : 14.15% (Var)
  • Additional Information : Terms same as above. APR is Prime + 5.9%

Partners First • (800) 445-4631


Low Rate Card

  • Annual Fee : $18
  • APR : 15.49% (Var)
  • Additional Information : Cash advance fee: 3.5%/$3.50 min. Late fee: $29. Over the limit fee: $29. APR is Prime + 7.24%.

No Annual Fee Card

  • Annual Fee : None
  • APR : 17.49% (Var)
  • Additional Information : Terms same as above. APR is Prime + 9.24%.

People's Bank • (888) 736-7537


Standard Card

  • Annual Fee : None
  • APR : 13.90% (Fix)
  • Additional Information : Cash advance fee: 3%/$3. min. Late fee: $29. Over the limit fee: $29.

Long Island Sound Card

  • Annual Fee : None
  • APR : 14.90% (Fix)
  • Additional Information : Terms same as above.

U. S. Ski Team Rewards Card

  • Annual Fee : None
  • APR : 15.90% (Fix)
  • Additional Information : Terms same as above.

PNC Bank • (800) 545-7899


  • Annual Fee : None
  • APR : 14.99% (Fix)
  • Additional Information : Cash advance fee: 3%/$5 min. Late fee: $29. Over the limit fee: $29.

Providian National Bank (Internet application only)


Aria

  • Annual Fee : None
  • APR : 7.99%* (Fix)
  • Additional Information : Cash advance fee: 3%/$5 min. Late fee: $29. Over the limit fee: $29. *Aria rates assigned on the basis of applicant's credit history and other underwritining criteria.

Aria #2

  • Annual Fee : None
  • APR : 12.99%* (Fix)
  • Additional Information : Terms same as above.

Aria Portrait

  • Annual Fee : $59
  • APR : 20.24%* (Var)
  • Additional Information : Terms same as above. APR is Prime + 11.99% (19.99% min.).

Pulaski Bank & Trust • (800) 980-2265


  • Annual Fee : $68
  • APR : 7.99% (Var)
  • Additional Information : No cash advance fee. Late fee: $20. Over the limit fee: $15. APR is Federal Discount Rate + 3.49% (5% max.)

Pulaski #2

  • Annual Fee : $35
  • APR : 9.45% (Var)
  • Additional Information : Terms same as above. APR is Federal Discount Rate + 4.95% (5% max).

Republic National Bank • (800) 533-5008


Standard Card

  • Annual Fee : None
  • APR : 16.15% (Var)
  • Additional Information : Grace period: 30 days. Cash advance fee: 3%/$10 min. Late fee: $15. Over the limit fee: $15. APR is Prime + 7.9%.

Republic National Bank #2

  • Annual Fee : $18
  • APR : 11.15% (Var)
  • Additional Information : Grace period: 30 days. Cash advance fee: 3%/$10 min. Late fee: $15. Over the limit fee: $15. APR is Prime + 2.9%.

Roslyn Savings Bank • (800) 545-7899


Classic Preferred Card

  • Annual Fee : None
  • APR : 16.15% (Var)
  • Additional Information : Cash advance fee: 2%/$2 min. Check cash advance has $25 max. Late fee: 29. Over the limit fee: $29. APR is Prime + 7.9%.

Sanwa Bank California • (800) 545-7899


  • Annual Fee : None
  • APR : 14.99% (Fix)
  • Additional Information : Cash advance fee: 2%/$2 min. (cash advance checks only: $25 max.). Late fee: $29. Over the limit fee: $29.

Simmons First National • (800) 636-5151


  • Annual Fee : $35
  • APR : 9.50% (Var)
  • Additional Information : No cash advance fee. Late fee: $20. Over the limit fee: $20. APR is Federal Discount Rate + 5%.

Sumitomo Bank of California • (Call or stop by local branch)


Classic Card

  • Annual Fee : $18
  • APR : 16.90% (Fix)
  • Additional Information : Cash advance fee: 2%/$3 min. Late fee: $10. Over the limit fee: $10.

Sun Trust Bank • (800) 786-8787


Classic Card

  • Annual Fee : None
  • APR : 15.24% (Var)
  • Additional Information : Cash advance fee: 2.5% (5% in GA)/$5 min. Late fee: $29. Over the limit fee: $29. APR is Prime + 6.99%.

Travelers Bank • (800) 638-1520


Standard Visa

  • Annual Fee : None
  • APR : 14.15%* (Var)
  • Additional Information : Grace period: 20 days. Cash advance fee: 2.5%/$2.50 min. Late fee: $25-29. Over the limit fee: $25-$29. APR is Prime + 5.9%. *Rate based on applicant's credit history.

Union Federal Savings • (800) 242-9910


  • Annual Fee : None
  • APR : 12.90% (Fix)
  • Additional Information : Cash advance fee: 2%/$10 max. late fee: $15.50 (adjusted two times per year). Over the linit fee: $20-- charged only when new balance exceeds credit limit by $100 or more.

Union Planters National Bank • (800) 545-7899


  • Annual Fee : None
  • APR : 16.15% (Var)
  • Additional Information : Cash advance fee: 2%/$2 min./$25 max. Late fee: $29. Over the limit fee: $29. APR is Prime + 7.9%.

Union State Bank • (800) 887-8775


  • Annual Fee : None
  • APR : 13.15% (Var)
  • Additional Information : Cash advance fee: 2%/$2 min./$10 max. Late fee: $10. Over the limit fee: $20. APR is Prime + 4.9%.

US Bank • (800) 285-8585


Classic Card

  • Annual Fee : $20
  • APR : 17.15% (Var)
  • Additional Information : Cash advance fee: 3%/$5 min./$25 max. Late fee: $29. Over the limit fee: $29. APR is Prime + 8.9%. Limited availability.

USAA Federal Savings Bank • (800) 922-9092


  • Annual Fee : None
  • APR : 12.15% to 18.15%* (Var)
  • Additional Information : No Cash advance fee. Late fee: $20. Over the limit fee: $20. APR is based on Prime + 3.9%-9.9%. *Rate based on applicant's credit history.

Wachovia Bank • (800) 842-3262


First Year Prime

  • Annual Fee : None
  • APR : 15.15%* (Var)
  • Additional Information : Cash advance fee: 4%. Late fee: $29. Over the limit fee: $29. APR is Prime + 6.9%. *On First Year Prime Cards, the APR for first 12 months is Prime Rate (8.25% during this survey).

First Year Prime with fee

  • Annual Fee : $18
  • APR : 12.15%* (Var)
  • Additional Information : Terms same as above. APR is Prime + 3.9%.

Prime for Life Card

  • Annual Fee : $88
  • APR : 8.25% (Var)
  • Additional Information : Terms same as above. APR is Prime Rate (8.25% during this survey).

Washington Mutual Bank • (800) 803-0205


  • Annual Fee : None
  • APR : 12.74% to 24.74%* (Var)
  • Additional Information : Cash advance fee: 3%/$3 min. Late fee: $29. Over the limit fee: $29. APR is Prime + 4.49%-16.49%. *Rate based on applicant's credit history.

Wells Fargo Bank • (800) 642-4720


Preferred Proven Credit Standard Card

  • Annual Fee : $18
  • APR : 15.65%*(Var)
  • Additional Information : Grace period: 20-25 days. Cash advance fee(ATM): 4%/$3 min. Cash advance fee (checks): 4%/$5 min. Late fee: $29. Over the limit fee: $29. APR is Prime + 7.4%. *All Wells Fargo rates are based on applicant's credit history.

Premium Credit Standard Card

  • Annual Fee : $18
  • APR : 12.25% (Var)
  • Additional Information : Terms same as above. APR is Prime + 4%.

Proven Credit Standard Card

  • Annual Fee : $18
  • APR : 17.65% (Var)
  • Additional Information : Terms same as above. APR is Prime + 9.4%.

Traditional Standard Card

  • Annual Fee : $18
  • APR : 19.80% (Var)
  • Additional Information : Terms same as above. APR is Prime + 11.55%.

Interest Rates have never been lower—or higher

Consumer Action's 1999 Annual Credit Card Survey of 105 cards from 63 banks found the widest range of non-introductory interest rates ever identified by the consumer organization since it began surveying in the 1970s. And the annual percentage rates (APRs) also make history by bouncing from a new low—the 7.99% fixed rate with no annual fee offered by Fleet and Providian banks -- to a never-before-seen high of 25.24% that Associates National Bank reserves for credit impaired customers.

This range excludes temporary rates, known as introductory or "teaser" rates, that are typically good for six months to a year, after which the APR increases sharply.

Associates National Bank is not alone in linking interest rates to consumers' credit histories. For three years, CA has found that some banks only quote their highest rates, although lower rates may be available to people with excellent credit. An increasing number of issuers now feature "tiered" pricing of credit cards, with low rates for people with good credit and much higher ones for those with past problems handling credit.

"We are seeing a radical shift in teh marketing of credit cards. Banks don't quote firm interest rates anymore," said CA Excecutive Director Ken McEldowney. "It looks like the free marketplace is being shuttered, replaced instead with targeted offers based on your credit history."

Another notable shift is in the proportion of cards without annual fees. In 1998, 51% of all surveyed cards had no annual fees; in 1999 CA found that 73% of cards surveyed came without a fee. Fees ranged from $18 (Amtrust, BankBoston, Ohio Savings, Republic National, Sumitomo and Wachovia banks) to the hefty amounts charged by Providian National Bank ($59), Pulask Bank & Trust ($68) and Wachovia Bank ($88) on some cards.

The credit card survey was conducted during October and early November by Gabriela Castelán, Janice Kohn, Nelson Santiago and Linda Sherry. The data was gathered through calls to issuers' customer service represntatives and/or by visiting company web sites.

CA found huge differences between standard and "non-preferred" interest rates. For example, the WalMart Card issued by Chase Manhattan Bank, charges the "non-preferred" applicant an APR of 23.24%—close to 10 percentage points higher than the WalMart Card's non-introductory standard APR of 14.48%.

More and more banks hit cardholders with increased rates if they miss even one payment or are late twice in six months. The higher rates are called default rates or penalty rates. The highest default rate identified by CA is Associates National Bank's 29.24%, levied on cardholders already paying the bank's astonishingly high standard card rate of 25.24%.

Other punishingly high default rates are Washington Mutual Bank's 28.74%, four to 12 percentage points above its standard rates, Travelers Banks 25.90%, almost 12 percentage points above its standard rate of 14.15%, and Household Bank's 24.49%, six percentage points above the regular rate of 18.40%.

Sherry, CA's editorial director, noted that "repricing" the accounts of cardholders who are late once or twice in six months is now very common.

"Using the Travelers Bank card as an example, the annual interest payments on a $2,000 balance would almost double," said Sherry. "We think it's a misguided move by banks that ends up pushing people who may be just a little behind over the edge into bankruptcy."

Late fees—the amount charged by banks if a payment arrives after the due date—have jumped to new levels. When CA looked at fees one year ago, it found 71 banks charging a flat fee for tardy payments, with an average late fee of $20.90. Eight of these banks (11%) charged the highest fee—$29.

This year, 59 banks charge flat late fees, averaging $25.20. Of these banks, 39 (66%) charge the highest fee, $29.

(The same figures hold for the over the limit fees, charged when cardholders exceed their credit limit. With very rare exceptions, a bank's over the limit fees match its late fees.)

"While we haven't surveyed any banks that have broken the $29 barrier, we see a lot more banks charging that amount," said Sherry. This year, only one bank, Commerce Bank, charged no late fee. Bank of Canton, which issues cards only to California residents, was the sole bank to charge the lowest fee, $5.

Apply—then get your APR

Some people saddled with sky high rates

The most important piece of information that must be disclosed in advance to credit card applicants under the federal Truth-in-Lending Act is the annual percentage rate (APR)—the price cardholders who carry a balance on the card will pay in interest.

But Consumer Action (CA) found in its 1999 Credit Card Survey that increasingly banks are failing to quote a firm APR until they know what the applicant's credit history is.

Companies such as American Express, DiscoverCard, Household Finance Corp., MBNA America, NextBank, Providian, USAA Federal Savings Bank, Washington Mutual and Wells Fargo are asking consumers to apply and then find out what rate they will get. The companies reveal ahead of time only a meaningless range of APRs—for instance, Providian National Bank's Aria Card has tiered rates as low as 7.99% and as high as 20.24%.

Consumer action and other consumer advocates believe that this practice—called risk-based or tiered pricing—hinders consumers when they try to do comparison shopping and flies in the face of federal credit card disclosure provisions.

Since 1989, credit card issuers have been required by federal law to disclose on their applications in an easy-to-read box what the interest rate and other key conditions would be. The box that lists these costs is nicknamed the "Schumer Box" after Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-NY), who led the consumer protection gislation through Congress while in the House.

Schumer, who was elected to the Senate in 1998, told CA that he decries the tiered-pricing trend. "The [Schumer] box was created to allow consumers to know exactly what rates they will pay and when they will pay them. These types of tactics clearly violate the spirit of the box," said Schumer. "Consumers deserve the information they need to make educated choices and credit card companies shouldn't be afraid to give it to them."

As a senator, Schumer continues to fight anti-consumer tactics by credit card companies. Last spring, his first pieces of legislation to pass the Senate were right-to-know measures to better inform credit cardholders.

With tiered pricing, you don't know the rate and terms of the credit card you've applied for until an account in your name has already been established. This has the potential to negatively affect your credit rating, notes CA, since many lenders consider the number of credit accounts you have as a key decision-making factor.

"This is like going to the supermarket and waiting until your groceries were rung up to find out how much they'll cost," said CA's Linda Sherry. "But instead of leaving behind cans of beans, consumers are littering their credit reports with cards they cannot afford and would probably avoid if they knew the price in advance."

Under a tiered rate system, people with excellent credit records get the best rates, and those with poorer payment histories pay significantly higher interest.

"When banks lower their credit standards in return for higher rates, it just allows consumers to get deeper in debt, at a higher rate of interest," said CA Executive Director Ken McEldowney.

For many years, CA surveyors have found banks lowering monthly minimum payments to make their cards apear more attractive to consumers.

The typical minimum payment is now 2% of the outstanding balance, down from the traditional 4%. Combined with the exorbitant rates charged to people with poor credit histories, such as Associates Bank's 25.24%, these minimum payments don't even cover new interest charges—so the principal isn't reduced at all.

Many consumers believe that by making minimum payments, they are paying off their debt. But paying only 2% of a balance that is racking up interest at more than 24% a year is simply putting consumers ever deeper in debt, said McEldowney.

"Paying only the minimum due is a sure fire way tookeep your debt alive for months and even years longer. To get out of debt, you need to pay at least 4% of the outstanding balance or as much more as you can comfortably afford to pay."

Opinion: Unhelpful help lines pull the wool over consumers' eyes

By Linda Sherry

Consumer Action's surveyors have more experience comparison shopping than most people. That's because we willingly subject ourselves to rounds of calls to investigate credit card, banking and telephone rates. Perhaps there are a few friendly, helpful customer service representatives in Toll-Free Number Land, but when it comes to providing hard facts they are few and far between.

What has happened to customer service? Where has that once popular sentiment "The customer is always right" gone? Getting a little information is getting tough indeed.

Does anyone answer the phone anymore without sending customers through labyrinthine voice mail systems designed to stun callers into feeling someone gave them a lobotomy when they weren't looking? Firms have caught on to all our tricks. Press "Zero" to try to skip ahead in the phone tree and reach an operator and now you hear: "Sorry, that is nota valid option."

What about pretending you are on a rotary phone? (Yes, even we think this is a hard one to swallow at the dawn of the new Millennium.) But leave it to the wily corporate coyotes to outfox us again. Now you have the option to "press or say" #1, #2, #3 ad infinitum...or perhaps ad nauseam is more apt.

Then you are promised that although "all our representatives are busy helping other customers," you will in fact be helped as soon as the next representative is free. Unless of course, you are subjected to the dreaded "We are experiencing unusually [yeah, right!] high call volumes today. Your wait to speak to a representative will by" (pick a number) minutes, hours, days, years.

And sometimes, after yet another interminable wait, they have the nerve to send a recording to do their dirty work, informing patient but hapless callers that "Our office hourse are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Eastern Time. Please call back tomorrow." Forget the little matter that your call commenced well before 5 p.m. ET.

So who's to blame the poor consumer who may sound a tad testy when finally (after an "unusually" long wait) you reach a human being? Well, the representative, for one. A rep recently threatened to hang up because he did not like the caller's "tone." Poor baby!

There are the representatives that ask suspiciously: "Why are you asking all these questions?" Try this answer, my dear: "Because it's my consumer right to find out all applicable terms before I even consider applying for your high interest rate, high fee credit card. And if I left it up to you to tell me about them, I'd be one mighty ill-informed consumer, wouldn't I?"

Recently one of CA's surveyors, who admittedly has expressed a lot of interest in credit card late fees and penalty rates, asked to have an application sent to her. "Oh, I don't think you'd qualify for this card," responded the rep.

As it gets harder and harder to get any information, consumers are starting to take the first offer they get and not boterhing to shop around and compare rates and terms. That's the way the companies want it to be. A vice president at a majore credit card company recently told us that the company's marketing department says that the more information you give consumers, the more unlikely they are to accept the offer.

And that's the point, isn't it? To get consumers to sign on blindly. Once you're hooked, it's harder to extricate yourself when problems crop up. But we just want you to know, if problems do arise, it can take a lot of your valuable time and maybe money to straighten them out. We can see a day when, like computer tech support lines, companies of all kinds will charge consumers to straighten out billing errors and solve complaints. And you just might have to take a week off work while you do it.

So, perservere and do your homework—no matter how hard they make it. Well-informed consumers have the best chance of avoiding problems later on.

Multilingual credit card information sorely lacking

It is not easy to shop for a creidt card by telephone or online if you have limited English skills. According to Consumer Action (CA) surveyors who called top issuers' toll-free numbers and surfed their web sites, few pay attention to me needs of limited-English-speaking consumers.

The lack of Spanish language credit information is especially noteworthy in light of recent estimates of the $383 billion purchasing power of Latinos in the U.S. In California, 20 percent of the rapidly growing Latino middle class have incomes of at least $50,000 per year.

Currently, there are an estimated 10 million Latinos in California and 31.5 million nationwide (10 percent of the population). The 2000 census is expected to find sharply higher numbers.

Of 63 financial institutions surveyed by CA, only a handful, including Banco Popular, Bank of America, Bank One, and First USA, have Spanish-speaking representatives available by phone. Wells Fargo Bank, one of the larges banks in the West, does not have a Spanish language options on its lines.

Only one surveyed institution—Bank of Canton—offers credit card information in Chinese on its customer service line.

"If the opening menu options don't include non-English prompts, it's like slamming the door on prospective limited-English speaking applicants," noted Gabriela Castelán of CA.

California boasts strong protection for Spanish-speaking consumers. According to John Lamb of the state's Department of Consumer Affiars, card issuers that conduct business in Spanish are required tooprovide credit card disclosures about interest rates, due dates and other key information in Spanish as well.

Although the experience of CA's surveyors is that little such information is available, Lamb said that Spanish-speaking consumers in California have the right to request translated information if salespeople have made sales presentations in Spanish.

Bank of America's Melanie Wyne said BofA offers applications in Spanish because, "We recognize the importance of providing quality service to our Spanish speaking customers."

Overall, CA found very few examples of banks offering special assistance to limited-English speakers:

  • Bank of Canton will assist Chinese speakers in filling out applications in English when they come into the bank.
  • Banco Popular offers Spanish-speaking customers the option of either applying for a credit card over the phone or coming into the bank to fill out a Spanish language application.
  • Bank of America offers a Spanish language applications and customer agreements for its standard and secured credit cards.
  • First USA applicants can apply for a card in Spanish over the phone.
  • Capital One provides information, disclosures and an online application in Spanish.

Digging for information on card issuers web sites

A majority of the 63 banks surveyed for Consumer Action's 1999 Credit Card Rates Survey have web sites where consumers can find out information about cards offered and in some cases apply for an account online. But far from providing up-to-the-minute rate and term information, CA found that many of the sites have not been updated in months. Many bear warnings that the rates may not be current. Some offer a toll-free number to find current information—others ask you to send a letter.

'Penalty Rates' hit when you pay late

The rates charged by credit card issuers to customers who have been late with one or two payments are known as default or penalty rates. "This pricing maneuver has been in evidence since1996 and appears to be gaining ground," said Linda Sherry of Consumer Action (CA). In 1998, 28 of the banks included in this year's survey had penalty rates—the 1999 survey lists 39, including three banks new to this year's survey. All of the default rates identified by CA this year are listed below.

Bank One and First USA Bank will raise cardholders' rates to 19.99% if they are late two times in six months, and to 22.99% if cardholders miss any two consecutive payments. NextBank cardholders' rates will be increased to 20.24% if they are late two times in six months; with two consecutive late payments the rates rise to 23.24%.

Providian Financial does not disclose any particular penalty rate, but states that it reserves the right to increase your interest rate if "your payment is late or if you significantly increase your total debt."

Even cardholders who pay on time can get caught by pentalty rate pricing. Capital One and Citibank are among banks that reserve the right to increase your interest rate if you have been late paying other credit bills. Citibank, which now owns AT&T Universal Card, notified its cardholders earlier this year that it would increase rates to 23.90% "if payment is not received by us or any other creditor within 30 days of the due date."

Bank 'Penalty Rates'
Bank Penalty Rate
Associates National Bank 29.24%
Washington Mutual Bank 28.74%
Travelers Bank 25.90%
Capital One 25.90%
Household Bank 24.49%
Crestar Bank 24.00%
American Express 23.99%
AT&T Universal Card 23.90%
Bank of America 23.90%
Household Bank - GM Rewards Card 23.90%
Wells Fargo Bank 23.90%
Mellon Bank 23.45%
Huntington Direct Bank 23.25%
Associates Bank - Classic Card 23.24%
Chase Manhattan Bank 23.24%
Next Bank Horizon Card 23.24%
SunTrust Bank 23.24%
National City Bank 23.00%
Bank One 22.99%
First USA Bank 22.99%
Greenwood Trust Co. - Discover Card 22.90%
BankBoston 22.00%
US Bank - Classic Card 22.00%
Greenwood Trust Co. - Private Issue 21.99%
Elan Financial Services 21.90%
First Star Bank 21.90%
Mercantile Bank 21.90%
Partners First - Low Rate Card 21.90%
Wachovia Bank 21.15%
Fleet Bank 21.00%
Citibank 20.65%
Commerce Bank (Kansas City) 20.50%
Union State Bank 20.15%
First National Bank of South Dakota 20.00%
Bank One 19.99%
First USA Bank 19.99%
Commerce Bank 19.85%
People's Bank 19.80%
AFBA Industrial 18.00%
Fidelity National Bank 17.90%
Providian National Bank See Story Above

Banks lure competitors' customers with super low 'teaser' rates

Many banks offer new customers the temporary introductory interest rates known as "teaser rates," which typically last only six months. By slashing rates for a time, the banks hope to lure you away from your current card company. Of the 63 banks Consumer Action surveyed, 41 said a special offer was available to new customers. Unless otherwise noted, all teaser rates last through the first six billing cycles, and apply to transferred balances and new purchases. Lower rates may be offered by direct mail to a list of prescreened potential customers.

Bank Teaser Rates

Key:
a - Interest rate is good on balance transfers only.
b - Teaser rate lasts three months.
c - Teaser rate lasts four months.
d - Teaser rate lasts five months.
e - Teaser rate lasts 12 months.

Bank Teaser Rate Notes
AFBA Industrial 2.90% c
Amalgamated Bank of Chicago 5.90%  
American Express - Blue 0%  
American Express - Optima 7.90%  
Amtrust Bank 6.90%  
AT&T Universal Card 3.50% a, e
Banco Popular 6.90%  
Bank of America 3.90%  
BofA - Rewards & Travel Choices Card 6.90%  
Bank One 3.90% d
BankBoston 6.65%  
Central Carolina Bank 3.99% a
Chase Bank 5.99%  
Citizens Bank 5.90% d
Columbus Bank & Trust 5.90%  
Commerce Bank 8.90%  
Elan Financial Services 6.90%  
Fidelity National Bank 7.90%  
First National Bank of South Dakota 5.90%  
First Star Bank 6.90%  
First USA Bank 3.90%  
GM Rewards Card 3.90%  
Huntington Direct Bank 9.25%  
Main Street Bank 4.90%  
MBNA America Bank - America's Card 5.90% d
Mellon Bank 5.90% a
Mercantile Bank 5.90%  
National City Bank 3.90%  
Ohio Savings Bank 6.90%  
Partners First 6.90%  
People's Bank 4.90%  
PNC Bank 3.90% a, c
Providian National Bank - Aria Card 0% b
Sanwa Bank California 3.90% a, c
SunTrust Bank Classic 4.90%  
The Roslyn Savings Bank 5.90% a, d
Travelers Bank 6.90%  
Union Planters National Bank 5.90% d
Union State Bank 7.90% e
Wachovia Bank - First Year Prime 8.25% e
Wells Fargo Bank 5.90%  

A few extra days to pay

Two-thirds of all surveyed banks said they will impose a late fee if the minimum payment is not receieved by the due date. Representatives of the following banks told Consumer Action's surveyors that customers may be allowed a "leniency period" of one to 15 days after the due date for their payments to arrive before the bank charges a late fee.

Although these banks allow a few days for the payment to arrive before charing a late fee, you may pay extra interest for the additional days, even if you pay your balance in full each month.

(This information is provided as a guide only—banks change their policies frequently.)

Bank Period
AFBA Industrial Bank 10 days
Amtrust Bank 2 days
Bank of Canton 1-2 days
BankBoston 5 days
Columbus Bank & Trust 5 days
Commerce Bank 5 days
First Consumers National Bank 10 days
First National Bank of South Dakota 3 days
First Union Bank 5 days
Liberty Savings Bank 10 days
Main Street Bank 10 days
Partners First 3-4 days
Providian National Bank - Aria Card 2 days
Republic National Bank 7 days
Simmons First National 2 days
Sumitomo Bank of California 5 days
SunTrust Bank 10 days
Union Federal Savings 10 days
Union State Bank 3-5 days
USAA Federal Savings Bank 15 days

It's 'Buyer Beware' In Cyberspace

By Gabriela Castelán

U.S. consumers will spend $18.6 billion online in 1999, more than double the $8 billion spent in 1998, according to a recent report by eMarketer. And it's increasingly likely that many of those consumers will be victims of Internet fraud.

In the first six months of 1999 the National Consumers League (NCL) Internet Fraud hotline received complaints that reflect losses of $2 million from online fraud. The U.S. Department of Justice estimates the cost of Internet fraud in the tens of millions of dollars.

"It's not one big happy family in cyberspace," said Susan Grant of the NCL's National Fraud Information Center. On Nov. 3 in San Diego, Grant joined members of the California Consumer Affairs Association for a discussion on identifying and prosecuting Internet Fraud.

Fraud in online auction transactions is the number one Internet scam. Complaints about online auction scams accounted for 68 percent of fraud reports in 1998 and a whoping 88 percent of the reports in the first six months of 1999. Other common e-commerce fraud complaints involve sales of merchandise, particularly computer equipment and software.

Danny Taylor of the Department of Justice's National White Collar Crime Center noted that in the last two years, four million new Web sites have appeared online. He said that white collar criminals are flocking to the Internet to conduct illicit business.

According to the Department of Justice, California residents have reported the highest incidence of internet fraud in the nation. The vast majority of victims of Internet fraud are between 30 to 50 years old and have fallen prey to fraudulent offers made through Web sites. E-mail solicitations account for less than 10% of the Internet fraud incidents reported.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has brought legal action against 260 companies and individuals over alleged electronic deception. Recently, it targeted a company called Audiotext for "modem hijacking," the illegal practice of switching Internet service providers without computer owner's knowledge. The pirates allegedly routed calls through a phone number that charged $2.50 per minute. Ann Stahl, an FTC investigator, calls modem hijacking a $2.1 million per year rip-off.

Other electronic deceptions being investigated by the FTC include pyramid schemes, credit repair schemes, business opportunity schemes, false health product claims, investment schemes, and failure to deliver goods. Even legitimate firms have to watch how they market their services. The FTC brought legal action against America Online for not disclosing the pertinent facts in its "free-trial" offers.

Grand said that online shopping can be safe "if you take the proper precautions." She makes the following suggestions:

  • Only do business with Web site operators who have clearly worded privacy policies on their sites. Look for disclosures about possible secondary uses of your personal or purchase information and your right to opt-out of marketing programs.
  • Get all the important information about what you're buying: the cost, order number, terms, guarantees, warranties and return or cancellation policies.
  • Look for the company's street address and telephone number and make a written note of them.
  • Ask the company to give you a time frame for when the products will be delivered or services performed.
  • If you are transmitting financial information, make sure you are in the secure browser mode. This is usually indicated by a small picture of a key or a lock at the bottom left of your browser's frame.

Experts advise that credit cards are generally the best way to pay because you have legal rights to dispute the charges if the product or service is misrepresented or never delivered. It is ill-advised to use a debit card for online purchases because you do not have similar protections, unless your card issuer has a voluntary policy that limits cardholder's losses.

Many states require return policies to be clearly posted in the store. If they are not, customers may by default have up to 30 days to return items. No such law exists for web vendors, so it is important to make sure there is a clearly defined return policy on the site.

The NCL has a new pamphlet that explains how to shop safely online. To request a copy, send a self-addressed stamped (33¢) envelope to: NCL, " Be E-Wise," 1701 K St. NW, Suite 1200, Washington, DC, 20006.

The FTC accepts consumer complaints online about deceptive marketing practices and other sales fraud on its web site (http://www.ftc.gov). The agency's toll-free hotline is (877) 382-4357 (FTC-HELP).

At Consumer Action, ¡Se habla español!

Three Spanish-speaking staff members, Guadalupe Aguilar, Edwin Florentino and Gabriela Castelán, joined Consumer Action (CA) recently.

Aguilar, a consumer advocate based in CA's Los Angeles office, is a former CA employee. Florentino is associate director of the Healthy Children Organizing Project, formerly the Lead Poisoning Prevention Project. Castelán, staff writer, also assists with Spanish language media inquiries and other editorial duties. Florentino and Castelán are based in CA's San Francisco Office.

Aguilar left CA in June 1998 to work as an investigator for the L.A. Department of Consumer Affairs. She was a mediator and consumer counselor for the department's busy hotline. For a time, Aguilar joined New Economics For Women, a non-profit organization promoting affordable housing in the Pico-Union area of Los Angeles—one of the most densely populated areas of the city. As program manager for the group's Tobacco Project her job was to educate, empower and inform the Latino community—especially youth—about the dangers of tobacco.

Florentino, a native of the Islas del Cisne in the Caribbean, earned his bachelor's degree in sociology from Rafael Landivar Catholic University in Guatemala City. Prior to joining CA's staff, he was the manager of visitor services and education for the Bay Area Discovery Museum. Florentino's other experiences include posts as program director for a welfare-to-work program at the Mission Collaborative for Healthy Families, and as manager of a health education and oureach program at the Haight Ashbury Free Clinics.

Castelán comes to CA with a masters in public administration from CSU Hayward, bringing more than 20 years of experience in bilingual media and advocacy. Most recently, she worked as vice president of public affairs for Planned Parenthood. Before that, she was communications director for the California Senate Democrats. Currently part-time at CA, Castelán works as a radio producer the rest of the week. She says that her goal is to help inform and educate Latinos in the Bay Area through the Spanish language media. She produces two radio programs, one about contemporary Native American music and one about Chicano/Latino issues, that air twice each week on dozens of public radio stations nationwide.

New Faces at CA

Hazel Kong, hotline counselor and receptionist, joined CA in April. Kong, who has a background in accounting, handles administrative tasks and assists Chinese callers to CA's consumer hotline.

Ricardo Perez came aboard this summer toorun CA's mail room, which handles bulk orders of publications to community-based organizations across the country.

Lorraine Wiley, a trainee with the National Council on the Aging's Senior Community Service Employment Project, recently began toowork on CA's hotline and fulfills individual publications requests.

Not worth a plug nickel!

CA updates its 1999 Long Distance Rates Survey to add new 5¢ plans

Long distance carriers have launched a new "Nickel War" with a battery of discount residential calling plans promising callers rates as low as 5¢ per minute on interstate calls. But the majority of the plans have monthly fees as high as $9.95, and could cost all but high-volume callers a lot more than currently available no-fee plans.

CA factored the true cost of the monthly fees, arriving at monthly break-even points in hours, effective per-minute rates and monthly savings for each plan. The update includes the biggest carriers—AT&T, MCI-WorldCom and Sprint—as well as lesser known companies such as Qwest, IDT, GTC Telecom and Talk.com, an Internet based carrier.

The survey can be found on CA's web site. To obtain a free copy of the updated survey, send a self-addressed, stamped (33¢) envelope to CA-LD, 717 Market St., Suite 310, San Francisco, CA 94103. CA members may call the hotline to have a copy sent to them.

20 years of auto safety advocacy

Rosemary Shahan, a former Consumer Action board member, this month celebrates 20 years of advocacy on behalf of automobile owners. The former English teacher was thrust into the world of consumer advocacy two decades ago when trying to resolve her own sales conflict with a Southern California car dealer. Shahan used the settlement she received in that case to start a consumer advocacy organization to help victims of auto sales abuses.

Over the years, Shahan, president of Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety (CARS), a Sacramento-based non-profit group, has spearheaded many state and federal auto sales and safety abuse protections.

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