Financial Literacy - Credit savvy
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Credit card changes may hurt consumers

When it comes to credit cards, what you see isn't necessarily what you get. That's because interest rates, fees and other cardholder terms can change unexpectedly.

At a glance
Name: Emily Peters
Hometown: San Luis Obispo, Calif.
Education: University of the Pacific (B.A.)
Career highlights:
  • Worked for several years as an industry insider at credit report bureau TransUnion.
  • Joined Credit.com in 2005 as a personal finance expert.
  • Seven years of experience in the credit industry focusing on credit reports, credit cards, loans and personal finance.
  • Serves as the CreditBloggers.com editor and has spoken at numerous personal finance conferences.
  • Commentator on FOX News, CNBC, KRON-4 and Fox Business News..
  • Quoted as a national credit expert in USA Today, American Banker, Kiplinger's Personal Finance, Newsweek and the Los Angeles Times.

Change can be a positive force under the right conditions. But as the credit card industry tries to shield itself from risk in a shaky economy, new tactics for bolstering balance sheets may end up hurting good customers along with the bad ones, according to Emily Peters, a personal finance expert at San Francisco-based Credit.com, a consumer advocate and educator.

As a former employee of credit reporting giant TransUnion, Peters learned the ins and outs of the credit industry before moving on to become a personal finance expert.

She says part of the problem with the industry today is that current regulations give credit card issuers wide latitude to change terms and allow companies to author consumer disclosures in arcane language, making them hard to understand.

Bankrate talked to Peters about the latest industry trends and how increased regulation of the credit card industry could protect consumers from some of the more egregious credit practices.

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q_v2.gifWho are the credit card issuers targeting with respect to interest rate increases and credit line decreases? How should consumers respond to these changes? 

a_v2.gifSo far, what we've seen regarding increased rates and lower credit limits is that they're usually targeted at people who had very low interest rates on fixed-rate cards. However, the main identifier really has been people who carry balances on their credit cards even though they always made their payments on time. Traditionally, that has been the right way to use credit cards. That's the way that most people use credit cards and that's the way that's been very lucrative for credit card companies, but apparently not lucrative enough because we are seeing reduced credit limits and increased rates on people who carry balances and even account closures sometimes for people who fit into that model. Another target is dormant accounts -- credit cards that haven't been used in 12 or 24 months.

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Product Rate Change Last week
Balance Transfer Cards 15.76%  0.01 15.77%
Cash Back Cards 16.44%  0.04 16.48%
Low Interest Cards 11.04% --0.00 11.04%
 
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