I’m still looking for a second news source to back this up, but the circumstantial evidence is strong. We got a notice to our “tips” e-mail address about a loophole in the recently-passed Credit CARD Act of 2009, namely:
The law requires credit card companies to give 45 days notice of a rate increase, but only if the card has a fixed rate. The law also requires rates to stay the same for one year after a new account is open, but only for fixed rates.
And since credit card issuers are proactively punishing customers as a result of new legislation which hasn’t taken effect yet, they’ve also decided to start changing fixed-rate cards to variable-rate cards. Simply switching the rate type will enable the banks to raise rates whenever they want, again.
With a variable rate, rates generally rise as interest rates rise, and fall in a declining-rate environment. With rates already near a bottom and expected to rise, most consumers probably won’t see their rates fall further.
Not all customers are being affected, but Bank of America, Chase and Discover have all announced this change for some of their customers.
With some of the banks, you can opt out of the change, which of course comes with a requirement to close the account. The last time our readers encountered this widespread kind of change, they had a surprising amount of luck getting their original terms back by calling and talking to the right people, in the right way. Hopefully many of you can manage the same thing this time. Let us know in the comments.
Fixed-Rate Credit Cards May Vanish , Jane J. Kim, Wall Street Journal, July 13, 2009