100 Tips for 2011 » 10 credit card tips for 2011
With credit cards, the same advice always applies: shop around, use credit cards lightly and pay on time. Less obvious is how to manage credit cards in light of new rules brought about by the Dodd-Frank Act, Federal Reserve regulations and the Credit CARD Act. Taken together, these rules provide increased disclosures to consumers, new protections and important loopholes every cardholder should know.
With these changes in mind, here are 10 tips for navigating the new credit environment in 2011.
Carry cash or debit for small purchases
The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act allows retailers and other merchants to set a minimum purchase amount for credit card transactions. "The minimum purchase amount must not exceed $10 and does not apply to transactions made with a debit card," Visa explains on its website.
In the past, some merchants imposed credit card minimums on customers, but did so in violation of card network rules. Vendors can now set a $10 credit card minimum without fear of penalty.
Avoid this potential restriction by always carrying at least $10 or a debit card in your wallet.
Under 21? Know the new rules for getting a credit card
Under the Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility and Disclosure Act of 2009, or Credit CARD Act, if you're under 21 years of age, you must have either sufficient income or assets, or a co-signer to get a credit card. Issuers aren't required to offer a co-signer option, however. Bankrate.com surveyed some of the major card issuers recently and found that some don't permit co-signing.
Before submitting an application, check with the card issuer to find out what the policy and procedure is regarding applicants under the age of 21.
Save the credit card agreement summary
In addition to the credit card agreement itself, new cardholders must receive a one-page agreement summary
, as required by Federal Reserve regulations that took effect July 2010. This summary should highlight the key terms of your contract. File it away for future reference.
Watch for changes to existing accounts
Under the CARD Act, issuers must provide notice of certain changes to accounts 45 days before they take effect. For instance, issuers must give 45 days' advance notice before increasing the required minimum payment. The law doesn't require advance notice of all changes, however. Changes that don't have to be announced ahead of time include credit limit reductions and account closures.
Certain changes you can opt out of, such as increases to fees that were disclosed in the account-opening table. To allow for response time to an undesired change, open mail from card issuers immediately.