One of the requirements of the Credit Card Act implemented two years ago was that issuers of credit cards had to include a resource for customers who had trouble managing their finances. The National Foundation for Credit Counseling provided a toll-free number to be printed on credit card statements, which consumers can call to find a nonprofit credit counseling group near them.
The NFCC says the number has been distributed by credit card statements more than half a billion times since the regulation kicked in early last year, but the organization has only fielded 150,000 calls from people struggling with credit card debt. Spokeswoman Gail Cunningham says the small number is inexplicable and troubling, especially since credit card debt is still a problem for many Americans.
Cunningham says some of the trouble might be that the number -- along with information that highlights how long it will take someone to pay off their balance if they make only the minimum payment each month -- isn't in a front-and-center position on the statement. "I certainly think one of the reasons for the low response rate from consumers could be attributed to a lack of prominence," she says. "Perhaps the number is buried somewhere." In some cases, Cunningham adds, consumers seem to be confused and believe the credit-counseling hotline is actually the credit card company's number.
In some cases, the explanation might be simpler as well as more troubling, she says. "It has been our observation that the number and the snapshot are absent from some statements, and this is curious to us."
Cunningham says people who aren't sure where to find the information on their credit card statements can still go to nfcc.org to find nonprofit credit counseling near where they live or work.