How will the credit card reforms help you?
Posted by Kathy Mitchell at 05/25/09 12:31 PM

Do you have a question about when the various provisions of the bill become law (the effective dates)? We've posted a quick summary of the various effective dates here, but most of the key provisions become effective February 22, 2010.

That's a few months earlier than the Federal Reserve rules finalized last fall, and the final bill contains some stronger protections as well. We wish the reforms were effective immediately, but that's a battle we did not win among the many we did win.

We know that you have questions. We've posted the full text of the bill here (pdf only). But you may not want to slog through hundreds of pages and then wonder if you understood it all.

So ask your questions. Ask us how the new reform will affect your personal card problems. We will do our best to tell you. Here are a couple questions we expect many of you to have, so we wanted to answer them first.

UPDATE: See your most common questions and our answers all in one place here.

My rates just went up. Will the reforms give me my old deal back? For millions of you who recently got socked with rate increases and new fees, we can tell you right now that the bill is not retroactive. Unfortunately. But starting February 2010, your payments above the minimum, will be allocated to your highest interest balance first, rather than the lowest. So for those of you trying to pay down that now-too-expensive card, it may get easier next year.

The banks said these reforms would end rewards programs and grace periods. Does the bill do that? Emphatically, No. And it is unlikely that banks will do these things on their own. Right before the final vote, bank lobbyists tried to scare the public by saying that good customers who now benefit from rewards programs and grace periods would have to start paying more and getting less to make up for irresponsible card holders. Now that the bill has passed, we think it unlikely that any card company would thrive by further attacks on their best customers--the same customers who can always just go someplace else. Banks make a lot of money in transaction fees on the customers who charge a lot but do not carry a balance. That's why they set up attractive programs to garner that business. Those competitive dynamics have not changed with these reforms.

But we know you have lots of other questions. So please, ask your question below and we're ready to answer it.

This is a public forum, so don't post anything (like your card number) you don't want everyone on the Internet to see. Your question will be posted shortly after you ask it. We have experts standing by to answer as best we can based on what you tell us. We may not answer every single question. If several people's issues are similar we will try to provide one good answer, so as the comment string develops look and see if your question has been asked and answered.