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CAB - Good News for Credit Card Users
Citizens Advice and The UK Cards Association produce consumer guidance on recent changes
National charity Citizens Advice has joined forces with the UK Cards Association to ensure that consumers are savvy about recent changes to credit card accounts. The changes will give credit card holders greater flexibility and control over their accounts.
The changes came into effect in January, and April of this year. To coincide with this Citizens Advice and UK Cards have produced a leaflet outlining what the six main changes are and what they will mean for consumers. The leaflets will be available from Citizens Advice Bureaux across England and Wales and to download, along with an ‘advicepod’, from the charity’s advice giving website www.adviceguide.org.uk/index/credit_card_changes.
The six changes will mean:
1. The most expensive debt will always be paid off first
Before, most credit card companies used your repayments to pay off your cheapest debt first. This meant you paid interest on the more expensive debt, such as cash withdrawals, over a longer period of time.
2. On new accounts, making the minimum payment will still reduce the outstanding balance.
For new accounts opened from 1 April 2011, credit card companies must set the minimum payment at a rate that reduces your actual balance by 1% each month. Before, if you made the minimum payment, this would generally only cover fees and interest charges and wouldn’t reduce your outstanding balance.
3. Credit card cheques will only be sent on request
Before, credit card companies could send you cheques that you could use to transfer balances from other credit cards, withdraw money against your account, or pay for goods and services. Now you will only be sent these cheques if you ask for them.
4. More choice and control over credit limit increases
Before, your credit card company could increase your credit limit without asking you. Now, they have to contact you if they want to increase your credit limit. You will have 30 days to decide whether to decline the increase. This gives people more control over their spending.
5. Clearer communications about interest rate increases
Before, if credit card companies increased your interest rate and you chose not to accept it, your account would be closed and the outstanding balance repaid at the existing rate over a reasonable period of time. Now, once your credit card company has contacted you, you will have 60 days to decide whether to reject the new rate. This means you will have more time to explore alternative deals.
6. More flexibility about how much you pay towards your bill.
Before, if you wanted to set up a regular payment you would normally have had to pay either the outstanding balance, or the minimum payment each month. Now you can choose to repay any amount you want between the minimum and the full balance.
Gillian Guy, Chief Executive at Citizens Advice said:
“For some time now Citizens Advice has been campaigning for changes to the way some credit card companies operate, which can make it difficult for people to manage their credit card accounts effectively.
“Last year we dealt with over 420,000 enquiries from people worried about credit card, store and charge card debts. The majority of those people come to us concerned about how to deal with their repayments. These new changes will give credit card users more flexibility and control over their accounts.. We are pleased to be working together with UK Cards to ensure as many people are aware of these enhanced rights as possible.”
Melanie Johnson, Chair of The UK Cards Association said:
“Over the last six years the credit card industry has made a number of significant changes to improve transparency and give cardholders more control over their finances, putting them back in the driving seat.
“These latest improvements deliver further benefits, and we hope that this new consumer leaflet, produced in partnership with Citizens Advice, will help ensure that the nation's 30 million credit card holders are aware of how they can benefit from these important changes”
Notes to editors
The Citizens Advice service comprises a network of local bureaux, all of which are independent charities, and national charity Citizens Advice. Together we help people resolve their money, legal and other problems by providing information and advice and by influencing policymakers. For more information in England and Wales see http://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/index/aboutus.htm
The advice provided by the Citizens Advice service is free, independent, confidential, and impartial, and available to everyone regardless of race, gender, disability, sexual orientation, religion, age or nationality. For online advice and information see www.adviceguide.org.uk
Citizens Advice Bureaux in England and Wales advised 2.1 million clients on 7.1 million problems from April 2009 to March 2010, an 18% increase on the previous year. For full 2009/2010 service statistics see: http://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/index/pressoffice/press_index/press_20100517.htm
Out of 22 national charities, the Citizens Advice service is ranked by the general public as being the most helpful, approachable, professional, informative, effective / cost effective, reputable and accountable. (nfpSynergy’s Brand Attributes survey, May 2010).
Most Citizens Advice service staff are trained volunteers, working at around 3,300 service outlets across England and Wales.