Blogs > Your Money

Dave Patterson and Erin Preston, a father-daughter team of Certified Financial Planner® licensees, provide thoughts and suggestions on a broad collection of personal finance topics.  Information provided in this BLOG is intended to be of a general nature and may not be appropriate for all situations.  Readers should consult with their own financial advisors before relying on any information contained herein.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Not All Interest Rates are Low

Just when you think interest rates are really low, it was reported yesterday in Monday’s Wall Street Journal that credit card interest rates have hit a nine-year high. Mortgage rates are currently below 4.5 percent and savings account and CD’s are paying next to nothing, yet according to the article, the average credit card rate in the second quarter of this year was 14.7 percent, compared to 13.1 percent in the previous year.

Why the difference you ask? According to the Journal article, “New credit-card rules that took place Sunday limit banks’ ability to charge penalty fees. They come on top of rule changes earlier this year restricting issuers’ ability to adjust rates on the fly.”

The latest rule changes are a result of the Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure Act of 2009 (also called the Card Act). These rules have resulted in less flexibility for credit card issuers and essentially forced them to focus more on the risk profile of cardholders. This has made it more difficult for Americans to obtain new credit cards and impacted small businesses, since they use credit cards, in many cases, to fund their operations.

With many cards charging variable rates and interest rates eventually headed higher, credit card rates will only rise higher, down the road.

It’s clear that financial institutions will always find a way to get around regulations to avoid a decrease in their revenue. Representative Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) sponsored the Card Act. In the Journal article, she explains how the Act benefits consumers regardless of the rising rates: “Better that consumers should know up-front what the interest rate is, even if it’s higher, than to be soaked on the back-end by tricks and hidden fees.”

If you are like many Americans, who are carrying high credit card debt, it has become even more imperative that you focus on paying it down as soon as possible. The Journal article reported, for example, that Capital One Financial Corporation increased the rate on its Classic Platinum for Young Adults card by 2.9 percentage points just prior to the Card Act limits taking effect. The old rate was 16.9 percent! If you are carrying an ongoing credit card balance and paying that kind of interest, you need to do everything possible to cut discretionary spending and reduce your credit card balances.


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Savings Interest Rates

October 15, 2010 at 1:28 PM 

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