A new survey confirms that many banks are immediately charging late fees on payments not received on the due date and high punitive interest rates after just one or two late payments or a change in credit performance with other creditors. San Francisco-based Consumer Action says that anti-consumer policies employed by credit card companies force cardholders to slide deeper into debt. The group says $39 late fees are outrageous. Its annual “Credit Card Survey” found that 31% of banks said a penalty rate could be triggered by just one late payment, while 35.5% said that it would take two late payments in consecutive months or in a six-month period to cause a rate increase. The survey also found that 58% of surveyed banks now have a cut-off time on the due date for late payments. Consumer Action also found that 44% of the banks surveyed use “universal default” policies to increase interest rates based on their customers’ poor payment records with other creditors. The group says 51% of the surveyed institutions will not provide a firm APR until they have screened the applicant’s credit history. Only 39% of surveyed issuers had this policy last year. Additionally, Consumer Action found that 26 surveyed banks are adding their own foreign currency conversion charges that are separate from MasterCard and VISA fees. The number has grown since last year’s survey, which found 17 issuers with currency conversion fees.