If you've looked at your credit card statement lately, chances are your interest rate has increased. The average rate on existing cards is now 14.7 percent, up from 13.1 percent a year earlier, according to CNNMoney
, which points to a dramatic, 22-year high in the spread between average credit-card rates and the prime rate
, a benchmark for lending.
The increase is being blamed by some analysts on the Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure Act of 2009
, which created an environment in which lenders felt they had to raise rates while they still legally could.
Additional rules more recently went into effect that protect customers from exorbitant penalties and require companies that increase cardholders' annual percentage rates to re-evaluate the increase every six months.
talks with Dale Mingilton, the president of the Denver/Boulder Better Business Bureau and a retired FirstBank executive, who explains a few of the rules: Credit card companies no longer may charge customers more than $25 for a late payment unless they are late on one of their last six payments. Only at that point may fees rise to $35. Companies are also barred from charging late fees that are higher than the minimum payment owed.