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The Fed’s useless database of credit cards

By Leslie McFadden · Bankrate.com
Sunday, May 30, 2010
Posted: 8 am ET

The Credit CARD Act of 2009 required it and the Federal Reserve Board delivered it, but it's probably of little value to any consumer trying to compare credit cards.

I'm talking about the searchable database of credit card agreements the Federal Reserve Board posted to its website earlier this week. Section 204 of the Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility and Disclosure Act of 2009 requires credit card issuers to post their credit card agreements on their websites, and the Federal Reserve to compile and publish these agreements online.

The database allows you to search the full text of these agreements from any or all of the issuers by a keyword or phrase, such as "annual fee" or "interest rate." As of this writing, the site contains 1,205 agreements from 276 issuers. Issuers with fewer than 10,000 accounts did not have to submit their card agreements.

The database does have a sizable amount of agreements, but does a poor job of organizing them so that consumers can compare cards.

Poor organization

Searching for any given term merely gives you a list of links to see full card agreements that contain that word or phrase. Entering two words, such as "interest rate" will return all agreements containing  either or both words, which could leave you with an unmanageable amount of card agreements that match that phrase. For example, a search for  "annual fee" among all of the issuers' agreements results in links to 1,147 agreements from 268 issuers. Lovely, right?

You won't see key features of each agreement summarized in the way that credit card comparison sites such as Bankrate.com do. You have to peruse the files and make your own comparisons.

The search results display card agreements by issuer instead of card. You have to open each file to see which card the agreement addresses.

Bankrate.com offers a more efficient way to hunt for the best credit card. You can search by issuer, card type or credit score. Each credit card offer displays a list of key information, such as whether the card has an annual fee, how long the introductory rate will last, and what the regular APR is.

What do you think of the Fed's credit card database?

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