If your credit card issuer hikes your APR, you can say "thanks, but no thanks," under the Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility and Disclosure Act, or CARD Act.
It's possible the company will cut you a deal and let you keep the old interest rate (get that in writing), says John Ulzheimer, president of consumer education at SmartCredit.com.
But it's also just as likely the issuer will reduce your credit line, increase your minimum payment or simply close your credit card, he says.
But here's what the issuer can't do: Demand that you pay off the entire bill on short notice. If you refuse the new rate, you have at least five years to pay off your balance under the old rate, says Todd Mark, vice president of education at Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Greater Dallas.
Your higher rate may not last forever, either. If your issuer raised the rate after you paid your bill late or not at all for two months in a row, then your rate could come back down.
Under the CARD Act, the issuer has to review your account after six months. If you've behaved yourself, the issuer should reset the APR to your pre-penalty rate.