New rights for credit cardholders

Consumer Action and American Express announce update of free, popular multilingual consumer education series

Contact: Ruth Susswein, Consumer Action, 301-718-2511 | Ken McEldowney, Consumer Action, 415-777-9648 | Desiree Fish, American Express, 212-640-4761

Feb. 22, 2010—Consumer Action, in partnership with American Express, announces a revised version of the multilingual consumer education series “Credit Cards: What You Need to Know” to help consumers understand their new credit card rights and what they mean for credit cardholders. Through the new federal rules, cardholders have gained the right to restrict soaring interest rates on balances. Consumers will no longer see rates rise on existing balances, unless they pay 60 days late or have a "teaser" rate that expires. Consumers can now say no to over-the-limit fees. These and other new federal consumer protections for cardholders take full effect today. Starting today, consumers can find the “Credit Cards: What You Need to Know” brochure updated to reflect new federal rules here on Consumer Action's website or here on the American Express website. The complete module, including brochures available in Chinese, Spanish, Korean and Vietnamese, will be available over the next few months on Consumer Action’s website. “'Credit Cards: What You Need to Know' has become a perennial favorite since we created the joint education campaign in 2005 alerting consumers to the ‘real deal’ on credit card terms and conditions,” said Ken McEldowney of Consumer Action. “We have distributed more than 286,600 of our education and training module to 1,538 community-based organizations in 50 states. In addition, close to 200,000 visitors have viewed the brochure in one of five languages on our website to learn how to compare credit card offers, read and understand credit card terms and conditions, and avoid penalties and fees.” "As consumers are making choices about credit cards, they need to know their rights and have them presented in a clear and concise way," ssaid Ralph Andretta, executive vice president and general manager Consumer Services group, American Express. "In addition to our redesigned credit card agreements and our enhanced online consumer resource tools, we are pleased to continue our work with Consumer Action to educate consumers on making smart, informed choices about credit cards."

Five important new rights for credit card holders

1. No changes in terms or rates in the first year of a new card, except
  • When a promotional rate ends
  • If your variable rate adjusts
  • If you pay more than 60 days late
2. No rate hikes on existing balances
  • Interest rate increases generally apply only to new transactions
  • 45 days’ advance notice of any significant changes
  • Right to decline the change, close card and pay off balance over time
3. More time to plan for and make payments
  • Same due date every month
  • Bills sent 21 days in advance
  • Payments received by 5 p.m. must be credited that day
4. Control and choice on over-limit fees
  • Cardholder can control and avoid fees
  • Over-limit fees cannot be charged unless customer “opts in”
5. New information on your bill
  • Length of time to pay off your current balance if you make only minimum payments.
  • How to pay off your current balance in three years.
  • What will happen if your payment is late
For the last five years, Consumer Action and American Express have held regional train–the-trainer meetings in seven cities and trained 337 representatives of more than 250 community-based organizations, using these comprehensive materials.
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Consumer Action ( is a non-profit 501(c)(3) advocacy and education organization, with offices in San Francisco, Los Angeles and Washington, DC that has served consumers since 1971. Consumer Action distributes two million free educational brochures annually on consumer financial services and other issues, through its national network of more than 8,000 community-based organizations. Consumer Action has been conducting surveys of credit card rates and terms since the 1980s, to track trends in the industry and assist consumers in comparing cards and understanding their rights when using credit. American Express Company ( is a diversified worldwide travel, financial and network services company founded in 1850. It is a world leader in charge and credit cards, Travelers Cheques, travel, business services and international banking.



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