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The minefield of credit card booby traps is being cleared but not soon enough for consumers struggling with debt. Federal regulators yesterday took some of “Wild” out of the “Wild West” of credit card lending by banning a number of unfair and deceptive practices, plus requiring issuers to be more upfront. Under the new rules, card issuers must send statements at least 21 days prior to the payment due date; allocate payments exceeding the minimum payment to the balance with the highest rate first; cannot raise interest rates during the first year after account opening unless disclosed upfront or if the rate is variable; cannot increase the rate charged on pre-existing credit card balances; cannot use “two cycle” interest calculations; and must comply with limits on financing security deposits and fees for credit availability with regard to “sub-prime” cards. Under the new “Truth in Lending” rules disclosures must carry larger type and boldface type for key terms; disclose the duration that penalty rates may be in effect; simplify disclosures about variable rates and grace periods; increase the amount of advance notice before a changed term can be imposed from 15 to 45 days; disclose the effect of making only the minimum required payment on the time to repay balances; set a 5 p.m. due date cut-off time; and consider a payment received on the next business day as timely when a due date falls on a weekend or holiday. Consumer groups generally endorsed the new rules but are unhappy with the time frame. Issuers say the new rules will limit credit and raise costs for some and take time to implement. For complete details on the new credit card rules visit: “http://www.federalreserve.gov/newsevents/press/bcreg/20081218a.htm”:http://www.federalreserve.gov/newsevents/press/bcreg/20081218a.htm

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