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86 Credit Cards Questions and Answers

Am I responsible for unauthorized charges if my credit cards are lost or stolen?

If you report the loss before your credit card is used, the card issuer cannot hold you responsible for any unauthorized charges. If there is unauthorized use of your card before you report it missing, the most you will owe for unauthorized charges on the card is $50. You have no liability if someone makes unauthorized charges using your credit card account number. Many cardholder agreements say you are not responsible for any charges in any of these circumstances.

If you have not lost the card itself, but your account number has been stolen, you have no liability for unauthorized use.

Can a card issuer consider my sex or marital status when deciding whether to issue a credit card to me?

Card issuers cannot deny credit or offer less favorable terms on the basis of sex or marital status. Typically, card issuers may not even ask your sex on an application form, and the form has to disclose that you do not have to indicate Mr., Miss, Mrs., or Ms. on the application. There are also restrictions on asking for information about your marital status. A creditor may not ask about your marital status if you are applying for individual, unsecured credit unless you live in a “community property” state or are relying on property located in a “community property” state as a basis for repayment of the credit requested. The “community property” states are Alaska (if you sign a special agreement), Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin. If you are applying for joint or secured credit, the creditor may only ask if you are married, unmarried, or separated. The creditor must explain that the “unmarried” category includes single, divorced, and widowed persons.   

Can a card issuer consider the fact that I am not a citizen of the United States?

A card issuer may not discriminate on the basis of national origin. However, when making a credit decision, a card issuer may consider your immigration status and any additional information that may be needed to determine the issuer’s rights and remedies regarding repayment.

In addition, under the Patriot Act, card issuers must collect certain pieces of information about individuals when opening new accounts, including name, date of birth, residential or work street address, and taxpayer or other identification number.  For credit card accounts, this information may be collected from the customer or from a third-party source.

Can a card issuer consider whether I receive government assistance when deciding whether to issue a credit card to me?

A card issuer cannot discriminate against you because you receive public assistance income. Like all other forms of income, the issuer can consider the likelihood that the income will continue in evaluating your creditworthiness. A card issuer may consider issues relating to, for example, whether you will continue to meet the eligibility requirements for receiving benefits.

Can I get any reduction in the interest rate I am charged on any new purchases I make using my credit card while I am on active duty?

The law only regulates the interest rate that lenders charge on amounts that you owed at the time you entered the military or were called up to active duty. If you continue to make purchases with your card while on active duty, you can be charged your regular APR on this new balance. However, your card issuer must apply towards the new balance any monthly payment you make that exceeds the minimum amount due – and this will reduce the total amount of interest you pay on the card. 

Some credit card companies may give you a reduced interest rate on new purchases as well as on the balance you owed when you went on active duty. You should check with your credit card company to see what, if anything, it will do for you.

Can my card issuer change my credit card from a MasterCard to a Visa - or from a gas card/department store card to a MasterCard?

Yes. While the law does not permit the mailing of unsolicited cards, the card issuer can substitute one credit card for another. For example, your card issuer can send a substitute card when there is a change in the card issuer’s name, the name of the card, or the features of the card. After the substitution, only one credit account can remain active for use.

Can the card issuer charge a fee based on the way in which I paid my bill, such as for making a payment over the phone?

It depends. Generally, card issuers cannot charge you a fee for making a payment. However, a fee can be charged if you make an expedited payment using a method that requires the assistance of a customer service representative. Fees cannot be charged for payments made using only a voice response unit.

Can they charge me interest on a charge I told them I did not make?

If you have given the card issuer written notice of the billing dispute, you do not have to pay the amount in dispute while the card issuer is investigating, and the card issuer cannot charge interest on that amount. In addition, if you pay your entire bill except for the disputed amount, you will still be entitled to a grace period on new purchases.

How long can the card issuer take to resolve my billing error or dispute?

The card issuer must send you a letter stating that it has received your billing dispute within 30 days of receiving it. The card issuer must complete its investigation within two complete billing cycles, which generally means two months, and cannot take more than 90 days.

If the card issuer determines that no billing error occurred, it must mail or deliver an explanation of the reasons why it believes that no error occurred.

If the card issuer determines that a billing error occurred as claimed, then it must correct the billing error, credit your account with any disputed amount and any related finance or other charges, and send a correction notice to you.

I am a servicemember and I have an existing credit card balance. Can I get any relief from the finance charges?

As a general matter, under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA), while you are on active duty, if you notify your creditor, the maximum interest rate you can be charged on any amount you owed before entering active-duty service is 6 percent. For this purpose, interest includes not just periodic interest charges, but also other finance charges and certain other fees, such as an annual fee, related to the debt.

For members of the full-time active-duty military, SCRA protections begin the day you enter the military. For a Reservist or Guardsman, SCRA protections begin the day you receive your mobilization orders.

To get the benefit of the SCRA, you must notify your credit card company of your active-duty status in writing because the law says that you are the one who must request the interest-rate reduction from your lender. You must send a written letter, which includes a copy of your orders, to the card issuer. Include in your letter a request that your interest rate be reduced to 6 percent while you are on active duty. 

Some credit card issuers may even be willing to reduce your interest rate further than the SCRA requires.

I am afraid someone has gotten hold of my account number on my credit card. What should I do?

You should immediately notify your card issuer, close the account, and arrange to have a new account opened with a new account number.

I am tired of receiving credit card mailings. What can I do?

You can opt out of receiving certain mailings for five years by calling 1-888-567-8688 or visiting www.optoutprescreen.com. You can also opt out permanently by following the instructions online at www.optoutprescreen.com. To complete your request, you must return the signed Permanent Opt-Out Election form, which will be provided after you initiate your online request. If you opt out, card issuers will not be able to get your name from a credit reporting agency. However, card issuers may still get your name from other sources and mail you invitations to apply for a credit card.

I am tired of receiving phone calls asking me to apply for a credit card. Is this legal? What can I do?

Card issuers can call you about applying for a credit card, unless you have registered your phone number with the National Do Not Call Registry or have notified the particular card issuer to stop calling you. You can register your phone number with the National Do Not Call Registry by visiting www.donotcall.gov or calling 1-888-382-1222.

I believe that my rights as a servicemember have been violated by my credit card bank. What should I do?

If you believe your rights were violated, you should contact the nearest Armed Forces Legal Assistance Program office.Dependents of servicemembers can also contact or visit local military legal assistance offices where they reside. You can search online for offices within the continental United States or worldwide. Another potential source of assistance that may be helpful even if you are no longer on active duty is the American Bar Association.

I bought something when I was abroad and when the bill came there was a 2 percent fee. What’s that?

Different card issuers have different rules about the fees they apply for different types of transactions. Many issuers charge a fee for purchases made in a foreign country.

Your cardholder agreement should tell you the rules your card issuer applies. You should be able to find a copy of the agreement on your card issuer’s website, and you can request a copy of the agreement from your card issuer if it is not there. If you have any questions, you should contact your card issuer.

I can’t figure out how they calculated the amount of interest I owe. How does that work?

Different card issuers use different rules to determine when they begin charging interest and different methods to calculate interest. You should check with your card issuer for information on how interest is calculated for your account.

In general, most card issuers place different transactions into different categories, such as purchases and cash advances. For each category, the card issuer will use different periodic rates to calculate interest on each balance. For purchases there are often special rules creating a grace period during which no interest is charged if you pay the entire balance in full by the payment due date.

I did not receive a bill last month. The current bill shows a past due amount and charges interest for the charges from the prior month. What should I do?

You should let your card issuer know. While you can call the card issuer, in order to protect your rights you must send a written notice to the card issuer. You should follow the instructions on your statement. Note that the address to which you should send your written notice appears is usually different from the payment address.

Once you have given notice, you do not have to pay the interest charges in dispute while the card issuer is investigating. If you pay the undisputed amount, the card issuer cannot treat your payment as late and must assume that you have paid your balance in full when determining how much you owe next month.

If the card issuer determines that you are correct, the interest charges should be removed from your bill. If the card issuer determines that you are incorrect and that the earlier bill was sent, the card issuer must notify you of the reasons for its decision and let you know how much you owe and when your payment is due.

I had an account with one card issuer but I got a notice saying that the account had been sold to another card issuer. Can they do that?

Most cardholder agreements allow the card issuer to sell the account to another card issuer. You should be able to find a copy of the agreement on your card issuer’s website, and you can request a copy from your card issuer. The new card issuer will mail a new card to you, often with a new account number. This may not take place for a number of months.

When an account is sold, the card issuer that buys the account and becomes your new card issuer generally cannot increase the interest rate on any existing balance. The new card issuer can increase the interest rate for new transactions, but it must give you 45 days notice. The new card issuer also can change other terms, but it must follow the same rules about giving notice that would apply if the account had not been sold and your old card issuer wanted to make the change.

I have a deferred interest plan. Can I pay my deferred interest balance before my other balance?

If you pay more than the minimum amount due, you may request that the card issuer apply any amount paid above the minimum to the deferred interest balance before other balances. However, the card issuer is not obligated to honor this request if it applies your payments in excess of the minimum amount to the balance with the highest annual percentage rate and any remaining portion to the other balances in descending order based on the applicable annual percentage rate. Even if the card issuer does this, the card issuer must, for the two billing cycles prior to the end of the deferred interest period, apply your payment in excess of the minimum amount to the deferred interest rate balance first.

I just discovered that the card issuer has reduced my credit limit and I no longer can charge anything. Can they do that?

Card issuers generally can increase or decrease credit limits without giving you notice, including reducing your credit limit so that you no longer have any available credit. If the card issuer does so, you cannot make any charges until you pay off some of your existing balance. However, without advance notice, the issuer will not be able to impose overlimit fees if you exceed the newly reduced credit limit, even if you previously opted in to the payment of overlimit transactions. In no event may the issuer charge overlimit fees if you have not opted in.

I just learned that my card issuer has closed my account without giving me any notice. Can they do that? What can I do?

Card issuers generally can close an account without giving you notice. You should call your card issuer to see what you can do.

I let the card issuer know I was closing my account. They are still charging me interest. Can they do that?

If you still have a balance when you close your account, you are still obligated to pay at least the minimum amount and the card issuer can still charge interest on the amount you owe.

I made a payment last month, but the bill I just received says that I did not make the payment. What should I do?

You should let your card issuer know. While you can call the card issuer, in order to protect your rights you must send a written notice to the card issuer. You should follow the instructions on your statement. Note that the address to which you should send this notice is generally different from the payment address.

Once you have given notice, you do not have to pay the amount in dispute while the card issuer is investigating. You also cannot be required to pay interest or other charges relating to the disputed amount. If you pay the entire part of the bill that is undisputed on time, the card issuer cannot treat your payment as late and must assume that you have paid your full balance in determining how much you owe next month.

If the card issuer determines that you are correct, the charge should be removed from your bill. If the card issuer determines that you are incorrect and the bill is correct, the card issuer must notify you of the reasons for its decision and let you know how much you owe and when your payment is due.

I mailed my payment four days before it was due, but the card issuer says it was late. What can I do?

Under the law, a card issuer cannot treat a payment as late if it was received by 5 p.m. on the day that it was due. If the due date was not a day on which the issuer receives mail (for example, a holiday), the issuer cannot treat the payment as late if it was received by 5 p.m. on the next business day. Sometimes payments that you make may get delayed in the mail. Card issuers consider the day the payment was received and not the date it was mailed. You should contact your card issuer and see if the late fee can be waived.

I noticed that the interest rate on my card went up last month without any notice. Can they do that?

Your card issuer generally must give you 45 days advance notice before it raises your interest rate on new purchases; there are additional rules that restrict when the card issuer can raise your rate on your existing balance. This does not apply if you had an introductory rate (such as a low rate on balance transfers) which expired, or if you have a variable rate and the index to which your rate is tied (for example, the U.S. Prime Rate) has increased.

If you believe your interest rate was increased in error, you should contact your card issuer.

I paid my bill on time last month and still was charged a late fee. How can that be?

You should check with your card issuer to find out why you were charged a late fee and ask if you can be excused from paying this fee. You cannot be charged a late fee if you paid at least the minimum amount due and your payment was received by 5:00 p.m. (in the time zone where payments should be received) on the date it was due.

If you pay less than the minimum amount or if you do not mail your payment to the correct address, you may be charged a late fee.

I paid off my entire bill when it was due last month and still got charged interest. How can that be?

Different card issuers have different rules for determining when they charge interest. In general, once a card issuer begins to charge interest it will continue to do so until it receives your payment.  This means that if you have been carrying a balance, you will be charged interest – sometimes called “residual interest” – from the time your bill was sent to you until the time your payment is received by your card issuer.

Your cardholder agreement should tell you the rules your card issuer applies. You should be able to find a copy of the agreement on your card issuer’s website, and you can request a copy from your card issuer if it is not there.

I received a notice from my card issuer telling me that they were closing my account and that I cannot use my credit card any more. Can they do that?

Most card issuers reserve the right to close an account at any time, and are permitted to do so under the law.

I received a notice saying the card issuer was going to change the terms of my account. Can they do that? What can I do?

The card issuer has the right to change the terms of the agreement. For “significant changes,” the card issuer must give you 45 days advance notice. Significant changes generally involve the interest rate, fees, grace period, minimum amount due, and the method for calculating interest charges. Significant changes generally do not include changes to the benefits you get from your credit card, such as points or cash rewards, or changes in the brand (for example, changing from Visa to MasterCard or vice versa).

There are certain restrictions about what changes the card issuer can make. For example, card issuers generally cannot increase the interest rate you pay on existing balances. There are also rules about the maximum amount the issuer can charge for a late or overlimit fee and the minimum amount of time you must be given before your payment is due. But if the card issuer does not violate any of these rules, it can make changes to your agreement.

For many changes, you have the right to opt out. However, if you opt out, the card issuer may close your account. If so, you do not have to pay the balance in full immediately after the account is closed, but you will still be responsible for making payments until the balance is paid in full. Depending upon the card issuer’s policies, your payment may increase, but the amount of the new payment cannot exceed the higher of the amount needed to pay the loan off in five years or double the prior minimum periodic payment.

I received an offer for a credit card and it said that I was prescreened. What does this mean? Am I guaranteed to be approved if I apply?

Card issuers may use a credit reporting agency to make firm offers of credit to consumers whose credit histories meet the criteria asked for by the card issuer (for example, a minimum credit score). This does not mean the credit card issuer must provide you with a credit card. You must still apply. Once you apply, the card issuer can review your application and other information, such as an updated credit report, to determine whether your credit history still meets the criteria it asked for and whether you meet any additional criteria (such as sufficient income to pay the debt) that were in place at the time it made the offer.  

Card issuers also may get your name from other sources and send you invitations to apply for a card.

I received an offer from my card issuer to transfer balances from another credit card at a low rate. How long does the rate have to stay in effect?

The introductory rate has to stay in effect for at least six months. The card issuer is required to tell you how long you will have the introductory rate and what rate will apply after the introductory period. If the introductory rate is variable, it can change during the first six months if the index upon which it is based (for example, the “prime rate”) changes.

I received my bill this month and the payment is due the same day as usual but the bill came much later than usual. Can I get more time to pay?

Under the law, a credit card issuer must establish procedures which are designed to ensure that statements are mailed to cardholders at least 21 days before a payment is due. However, sometimes there may be a delay in the delivery of mail, resulting in your statement arriving later than usual. You should call your card issuer to see if you can make special arrangements for this month.

I received something in the mail offering me a credit card and it said that I could stop receiving “prescreened offers of credit.” What does this mean?

Card issuers use credit reporting agencies to send offers of credit to individuals who meet certain criteria (for example, a minimum credit score). You can ask credit reporting agencies to not include your name on lists used by creditors to make firm offers of credit (called opting out) for five years by calling 1-888-567-8688. To opt out permanently, go to www.optoutprescreen.comHowever, even if you opt out, card issuers can still get your name from other sources and send you invitations to apply for a card.

I used all my credit and made a payment. How long does it take before I can use the card again?

This depends on the policy of the card issuer, how much you paid, and how much you want to charge on the card. You should check with your card issuer.

I want to close my account. What should I do?

Your cardholder agreement will specify what you should do to close your account. In general, you should call the card issuer and follow up with a written notice. You should be able to find a copy of the agreement on your card issuer’s website, and you can request a copy from your card issuer if it is not there. If you have any questions, you should contact your card issuer.

I want to sue the card issuer that issued my credit card, but they tell me I have to use arbitration. Is that right?

Some cardholder agreements contain arbitration provisions. You should be able to find a copy of the agreement on your card issuer’s website, and you can request a copy from your card issuer if it is not there. If you have any questions, you should contact your card issuer. Where there is an arbitration provision, there are often questions about what types of disputes are covered by arbitration and even questions about whether the arbitration provision is mandatory. You should consult with an attorney about these types of issues.

I was receiving my monthly credit card statement, but did not receive one this month. What can I do?

Notify your card issuer that you did not receive your monthly statement. You should also file a written billing error notice with the card issuer. Find out from the card issuer where to send this notice.

Please note there are some times when a card issuer is not required to send you a periodic statement, including if your balance is less than $1 or if it has begun delinquency collection proceedings.

I went over my credit limit and I was charged an overlimit fee. What can I do?

A card issuer cannot charge an overlimit fee unless you have opted in to permit the card issuer to allow charges that put you over your credit limit. Before you opt in, the issuer must give you certain disclosures, including the amount of the over limit fee. After you opt in, the issuer must send you a confirmation that you have agreed to allow over limit charges.

If you have agreed to permit over limit charges, you generally can be charged a fee of up to $25 the first time you exceed your credit limit and a fee of up to $35 if you are over your limit a second time within six months. However, the fee cannot be larger than the amount by which you exceeded your credit limit.

If you elected to allow the card issuer to allow charges that exceed your credit limit, you have the right to change that election at any time by notifying the card issuer. However, the change will not apply to transactions that occurred before you notified the card issuer.

If I am married, can a card issuer turn down my application for a credit card in my own name?

No. Credit card issuers may not refuse to open an account because of your marital status. You may obtain your own credit card if warranted by your individual credit profile, income, and assets. Your own credit card means a separate account in your own name, not a joint account with your spouse or a duplicate card on his/her account. If you are creditworthy, a card issuer generally may not require that your spouse co-sign your account. In general, a card issuer may not even ask for information about your spouse or former spouse when you apply for your own credit card based on your own income, unless that income is alimony, child support, or separate maintenance payments from your spouse or former spouse. (This does not apply if your spouse is going to use your account or be responsible for paying your debts on the account. It also does not apply if you live in a community property state. The community property states are Alaska (if you sign a special agreement), Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin.)

I've lost my credit card. What should I do?

It is critical that you report the loss or theft of your credit card to the card issuer as quickly as possible. Many companies have toll-free numbers and 24-hour services to deal with such emergencies. Credit card issuers often place instructions for reporting lost or stolen cards on your monthly statement. Follow those instructions.

Last month there was a charge on my bill I did not recognize. I let the card issuer know, but the charge is still on my account. What should I do?

While your card issuer is investigating a billing dispute, the amount in dispute may still show up on your statement. You are not required to pay this amount and the statement should tell you that. If you do pay the disputed amount and the card issuer’s investigation finds that you are right, you will be entitled to a credit.

 If you have not already done so, you should dispute your billing error in writing to the address provided on or with your periodic statement for submitting billing errors. You should submit your dispute no later than 60 days after the creditor sent the first periodic statement that shows the error. Your letter should include your name and account number, and describe what error occurred and why you believe there was an error. You should also include the type, date, and amount of the error.

My bill shows the amount of fees I have paid for the entire year. What's that about?

Card issuers are required to let you know the total amount of fees that you have paid during the course of the year. Fees include any annual fee you pay, late fees, overlimit fees, and fees you pay when you get cash or write a check using your credit card account, as well as any other charges (other than interest) imposed as part of the credit card agreement, including charges for credit insurance and similar products.

My bill shows the amount of interest I have paid for the entire year. What's that about?

Card issuers are required to let you know each month the total amount of interest you have paid during the course of the year.

My card issuer mailed me a check with a zero percent interest rate for 12 months. I used it and they charged me a 5 percent fee. Can they do that?

Yes, so long as the card issuer told you the fee they charge for using the check at the time you received the check. Card issuers are allowed to charge a fee on checks, even if the check itself has a zero percent rate for a period of time.

My children are under 21 years old, but they receive invitations to apply for credit cards. How is this possible?

Card issuers may mail “invitations to apply” based on mailing lists purchased from a variety of sources, such as loyalty or rewards programs. However, credit reporting agencies are prohibited from knowingly including consumers under 21 years old on lists used to send firm offers of credit or insurance, unless the individual consented to the credit reporting agency to be included on such lists.

My new credit card won't work. What should I do?

Most new credit cards are sent in a de-activated state to the mailing address you provided on your application. This is to prevent unauthorized use should the card be stolen before you receive it. Instructions on how to activate the card will be enclosed. If you do not receive instructions, call your card issuer.

The card issuer increased my interest rate on my existing balance. Can they do that? What can I do to get the rate back down?

A card issuer can increase the interest rate on existing balances only if you are at least 60 days late in paying your required minimum amount unless an exception applies (for example, the exception for variable rate accounts). If you pay your minimum amount on time for the first six consecutive months after the rate increase, the issuer generally must reinstate the prior rate.

The card issuer increased my interest rate to 30 percent. Isn’t that illegal?

There is no federal law that limits the interest rate that a card issuer can charge. The maximum interest rate is generally determined by state law. The law of the state where the card issuer has its headquarters generally determines the maximum interest rate the card issuer can charge.

The last time I was late with my payment I was charged $25 but this time I was charged $35. What happened?

The first time you are late the card issuer generally cannot charge you more than $25. If you are late a second time within the next six billing cycles (typically a billing cycle is a month), the card issuer generally can charge you up to $35. However, neither late fee can be more than the minimum amount due.

There is a "credit balance"; shown on my statement. What is that and what should I do?

Credits are added to your account each time you make a payment or when you return something you bought with your credit card. Credits can also be added to your account because of rewards you have earned or because of a mistake in a prior bill. If the total of your credits exceeds the amount you owe, your statement will show a credit balance. This is money the card issuer owes you. You can spend the amount of the credit balance without owing anything to the card issuer. If you prefer, you can call your card issuer and arrange to have a check sent to you in the amount of the credit balance; your card issuer may ask you to submit this request in writing.  

There’s a charge on my credit card bill for something I didn’t buy or don't think I should be charged for. What should I do?

You should let your card issuer know about the problem right away. While you can call the card issuer, in order to protect your rights you must also send a written notice to the card issuer. You should follow the instructions on your periodic statement for where and how to send the notice. Note that the address to which you should send this notice is usually different from the payment address.

Once you have given notice, you do not have to pay the amount in dispute while the card issuer is investigating and you cannot be required to pay interest or other charges relating to the disputed amount. If you pay the entire undisputed amount on time, the card issuer cannot treat your payment as late and must assume that you have paid your full balance when determining how much you owe next month.

If the card issuer determines that you are correct, the charge should be removed from your bill. If the card issuer determines that you are incorrect and the bill is correct, the card issuer must notify you of the reasons for its decision and let you know how much you owe and when your payment is due.

This month my payment is due on a Sunday. When is it really due?

If your payment is due on a day on which the card issuer does not accept payments by mail, the card issuer must treat your payment as on time if it is received by mail by 5 p.m. (in the time zone where payments should be received by mail) on the next business day. However, if you pay electronically or by phone you must do so by the day the payment is due.

What are credit card “add-on products?”

When you call to activate a new credit card or interact with credit card companies in other ways, such as through customer service inquiries, you may be routed to representatives who try to sell you things like “credit protection” or “identity monitoring” to add to your account. These services, or “add-on products,” are additional, optional services. These products will cost you money, generally through a monthly or annual membership fee. They may be sold by the bank itself or through a third-party vendor authorized by the bank to sell you the product. In some cases, the sales tactics may be high-pressure and confusing. In addition, the benefits you receive from the product may not match the benefits that you thought you were offered.


You don’t have to buy these or other extra products or services from the credit card company to activate your credit card.

It is a good idea to wait to purchase  any add-on product until you review the terms, costs and benefits in writing. When requesting written information, be clear that you do not want to enroll in anything until you have the written information and decide that you want to try the product. It is also a good idea to avoid “trial periods” until you have read the terms of the trial period in writing. The terms of some trial periods allow the company to begin automatically charging you for the product at the end of the trial period, unless you call or write to the company.

What do I do if I think there may be additional unauthorized charges made after my card was reported lost or stolen?

Review your billing statements carefully. If they show any unauthorized charges, it is best to call and write a letter to the card issuer right away. Include the following information:

  •          Your name
  •          Your account number
  •          When you noticed your card was missing
  •          The date and time you first reported the loss to the card issuer
  •          Each unauthorized charge appearing on the statement by date, type, and amount

Be sure to send the letter to the address the credit card issuer designates for billing disputes, which may be same as for reporting lost or stolen cards. Do not send it with a payment – or to the address where you send your payments – unless directed to do so by the card issuer.

What if I can't pay my credit card bills and loans after a natural disaster?

You may have lost your job because of a disaster, or had your income interrupted. If you don’t think you will be able to pay your credit cards or other loans, be sure to contact your lenders as soon as possible. Explain your situation and when you think you will be able to resume normal payments.

Most creditors will try to find a way to work with you. The important thing is to make the call before your next payments are due. Late or missing payments could damage your credit score at a time when you need access to credit most.

If your home is so damaged that you can’t live in it, you’ll also want to contact your utility companies and ask to suspend your service. This could help free up money in your budget for other expenses.

Take a look at your other bills and set priorities. Your mortgage, rent and insurance payments should stay high on your list.

Next, take a look at your income and savings and determine how much you have available. If you don’t have an emergency savings account, consider starting one as soon as you can. If you are unable to work because of the disaster, federal or state benefits may also be available to you.

What information are card issuers not allowed to base decisions on when considering a credit card application?

The Equal Credit Opportunity Act does not guarantee that you will get credit. You must still pass the card issuer’s tests of creditworthiness. But the law bars discrimination based on age, sex, marital status, race, color, religion, and national origin in deciding whether to extend credit to an applicant, in deciding the terms (such as the interest rate or credit limit), or in any other aspect of a credit transaction. The law also generally bars discrimination because you receive public assistance income, or because you exercise your rights under certain federal credit laws (such as filing a billing dispute with a card issuer).

This protection means that a card issuer may not use any of the above grounds as a reason to do the following:

  • discourage you from applying for a card
  • refuse you a card if you qualify
  • provide you credit on terms different from those granted another person with similar income, credit history, and other characteristics
  • close an existing account

Card issuers may not discriminate on the basis of national origin, but if you are a resident alien, they are allowed to consider your immigration status when making a loan decision. In particular, a card issuer can consider immigration status and any additional information that may be necessary to determine its rights and remedies regarding repayment.

What is a credit card interest rate? What does APR mean?

A credit card’s interest rate is the price you pay for borrowing money. For credit cards, the interest rates are typically stated as a yearly rate, called the annual percentage rate (APR).

On most cards, you can avoid paying interest on purchases if you pay your balance in full each month.

What is a "daily periodic rate?";

A daily periodic interest rate is calculated by dividing the annual percentage rate (APR) by either 360 or 365, depending on the card issuer. The resulting daily periodic interest rate is then used to calculate interest by multiplying the rate by the amount owed at the end of each day. This amount is then added to the previous day’s balance, which means that interest is compounding on a daily basis.

However, the interest rate for a credit card is usually stated as an annual rate (the annual percentage rate or APR).

What is a grace period? How does it work?

With most credit cards, you can avoid paying interest on purchases if you pay your balance in full each month. The period between the end of a billing cycle and the date your payment is due is referred to as a “grace period.”  Card issuers that provide a grace period must establish procedures to assure that bills are mailed or delivered at least 21 days before they are due.

If you do not pay your balance in full, you will generally be charged interest on the unpaid portion of the balance, and interest will be charged on purchases in the new billing cycle starting on the date each purchase is made.

With credit cards, grace periods typically apply only to purchase transactions. If you use your card to get a cash advance or use a check you received from your card issuer, generally you will start paying interest as of the date of the transaction. Most card issuers also charge a different interest rate if you use your credit card to get cash or to write a check. Your statement generally must show the APR that applies to cash and cash-like transactions and the amount of the balance that falls in that category.  There may be more than one such APR, for example, one that applies to cash advances and a different APR for checks.

Your cardholder agreement must include the rules your card issuer applies to determine which transactions fall into which categories and must list the different interest rates. You should be able to find a copy of the agreement on your card issuer’s website and you can get a copy from your card issuer. If you have any questions, you should contact your card issuer.

What is an unauthorized use?

In general, "unauthorized use" means the use of a credit card by a person, other than the cardholder, who does not have the right to use the card and from which the cardholder receives no benefit. For example, if you lose your card and someone finds it and uses it, that would be an unauthorized use. However, if you give your card to someone to use for a specific purpose and that person uses the card for a different purpose, that would generally still be considered an “authorized use” and you would still be responsible for the charge.

What is the difference between a fixed APR and a variable APR?

A fixed-rate APR or fixed APR sets an APR that does not fluctuate with changes to an index. This does not mean that the interest rate will never change, but the issuer generally must notify you before the change occurs, and in most circumstances can apply the higher rate only to purchases and other transactions you make after you get the notice.

A variable-rate APR or variable APR changes with the index interest rate, such as the prime rate published in the Wall Street Journal. The cardholder agreement will say how a card’s APR can change over time.

You should be able to find a copy of the agreement on your card issuer’s website, and you can request a copy from your card issuer if it is not there. If you have any questions, you should contact your card issuer.

What should I do if I can’t pay my credit card bills?

First, it’s important that you act right away. You do not need to be behind on your payments to ask for help, and many creditors may be willing to help if you’re facing a financial emergency.

Here’s what to do:

  1. Add up your income and expenses. Look for ways to cut costs. If you can’t find enough to pay your minimum payment, decide how much you can afford to pay.
  2. Call your credit card company. Be sure to clearly explain:
    1. Why you can’t pay the minimum.
    2. How much you can afford to pay.
    3. When you could restart your normal payments.
  3. Consider credit counseling. If you need more help, credit counseling organizations can teach you more about handling your money. Many credit counseling organizations are non-profit. Before you sign up, ask if you will be charged, how much, and what services will be provided. Watch out for for-profit debt relief companies that:
    1. Charge fees before they settle your debts.
    2. Give a guarantee that they can make your debt go away.
    3. Tell you to stop communicating with creditors.

When I tried to use my credit card to get cash from an ATM I could not do so even though I know I have not used all my credit. What can I do?

Many credit card issuers have an overall credit limit, but specify a separate and lower limit on cash advances and checks written on your credit card account. It is possible that the transaction would have put you above your cash advance limit. You should check with the card issuer to find out what happened and why.

When I was checking my monthly credit card statement, I found fees for services I did not sign up for. What should I do?

If you find unfamiliar fees on your credit card statement, here’s what you should do:

  • Call your credit card company using the phone number on the back of your card to try to resolve the problem. Tell the card company if you did not authorize the charge and ask for a full refund. You are not required to buy optional services from your credit card provider.
  • Ask for proof of enrollment if the bank claims you voluntarily signed up for the product.
  • If your credit card company doesn’t respond, file a complaint with the CFPB.
  • Even if your credit card company resolves the issue, tell your story so that we can track what's happening in the marketplace.

It’s a good habit to check your credit card statement every month for any unfamiliar extra services such as optional “add-on,” fee-based products, you don’t recall signing up to buy. 

When I went to use my credit card the store told me the charge was not “authorized.” What does that mean? What can I do?

Usually, when you use your credit card at a store the merchant obtains authorization from the card issuer. This authorization tells the merchant that your account is valid and that sufficient credit is available to cover the purchase.

If a charge is not authorized, it usually means that there is a problem with the account or that you are at, near, or over your credit limit. However, sometimes the merchant is unable to connect with your card issuer because of a technological glitch. You should call the card issuer to find out the reason the charge was not authorized.

Why wasn't my online payment credited to my account on the same day I made it?

A card issuer may set reasonable cut-off time for payments, and payments received after the established cut-off time will generally be credited as of the next business day. The cut-off time on the payment due date generally must be no earlier than 5 p.m. (in the time zone where payments should be received).




Copyright © 2013 by Mark McCracken , All Rights Reserved