Friday, November 06, 2009

Credit Card Rates: How High the Moon?

Are your Credit Card Rates Rocketing?
I got one of those letters you tend to ignore the other day...a boring all legalese style thing from my credit card company. Two of them in fact. I was busy so it wound up in the inbox among the bills. A little voice told me that might be important so I finally opened one in a dull moment and read these words: "Thank you for your business"....with some more stuff about informing you of your consumer rights and protecting your credit.... and hidden halfway down in small type this letter informed me of my new interest rate just jumped over 10% higher. What gives?

Congress recently passed a bill to curb consumer debt. That bill required Banks and Credit Card Companies to give 30 days notice in writing before they could raise our interest rates and they must have a 'reason'. The Credit Card companies told their friends in the House Financial Services Committee they could not possibly effect such a huge change and inform all their customers in so short a time. So Congress gave creditors until February 2010  to 'inform consumers' that they are raising your interest rates. Don't be surprised to see a dramatic rise before the new bill takes effect.

Who is being served? Essentially, consumers are being encouraged to become more conservative in their use of credit and banks are being more risk averse. The ideal is to see more consumers paying down their debt and keep it down.

What's a wise consumer to do? When you get the letter, call your card company and tell discuss the possiblity of  'opting out' of the increase. This may mean your card will be frozen. You will have the option to pay it off and keep it open with a zero balance (for the foreseeable future) or transfer to another lower balance card.
Your best bet may be to pay your cards down to zero balance and use them more conservatively in the future and lower your interest payments over time. Everybody wins.

Generally it is also a good idea to Opt Out of new credit offers:
Opt out of prescreened Credit Offers here:

The Federal Trade Commission offers advice on opting out of call, mails and email:

Happy Opting Out! 

© 2009 susan templeton

FREE Consumer Credit Reports

Order your FREE credit report once a year:

Online: (or download a mail-in form)
By phone: 877-322-8228
By mail: Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348

NEVER order a credit report from a site that asks you for a credit card number before giving you a 'free report'. Several firms have been convicted of secretly charging credit monitoring fees. 

The best known consumer site is which is the Fair Isaac Company site (they invented credit scoring). This site has some useful credit comparison tools showing how credit scores affect interest rates which in turn affects your payments. A Tri-Merge (3 bureau) report costs about $50.00 on these sites. If you check your own credit, it does not affect your FICO score.

Be aware, you do not need to sign up for regular credit check services unless you are concerned that someone has been abusing your identitiy. If you have experienced identity theft and you are concerned that your are still at risk, you can first make a police report, then send than information to all three Bureaus and they will 'lock' your file with a PIN code so no-one can attempt to check your credit without your code and permission.

When a lender pulls your credit, it can deduct up to 3 points from your FICO score, one for each bureau. Loan shopping beyond a 10 day period can impact your score significantly by going outside the 'de-duping period', so try to confine the number of lenders you allow to pull your credit within 2 weeks. Online lending firms have been known to 'shop out' your report to several agents (who each pull your score). The last 90 day period on your report shows the credit checks that were made and by whom. A responsible mortgage broker will only submit your loan application to a qualified lender they know can fund your loan given your specific requirements. Online shopping exposes you to agents seeking 'easy targets'.

Note: Free consumer reports may not show your FICO Score. You can opt to pay a fee for that information, which lenders require. The free reports are offered once a year. I charge the actual cost of approximately $20 for a Tri-Merge report in conjunction with a loan application, which shows your score. Note: 70% of credit reports have errors on them. Also your consumer report may not have the depth of a full lender report, and the scores are often higher as a result.

What's a good score? 300-850 is the score range, with 850 being perfect, 720 is excellent, 620-640  is the baseline (for lending) with under 600 being considered poor. You'll need 740 these days for best terms. When you apply for a mortgage your lender will discuss your score and any issues on the report. If you are declined, you will receive a notice with instructions on how to obtain a report with credit information they reviewed.

Plan ahead! If you are considering applying for a mortgage or major loan within 3-6 months, it's a great idea to check your report to be sure everything is in order. Credit repair can be time consuming--even with sufficient proof.

What about credit repair? There are some services that act on your behalf to dispute items on your credit or counsel you. You may call your State Attorney for information about the reputation of any consumer service.

You can always search a free HUD counselor in your area.

The best means to improve your credit rating is good behavior going forward.

Happy scoring!

© 2009 susan templeton