In an act of "bipartisanship," Congress approved the Credit Cardholder's Bill of Rights Act of 2009, a bill that will lessen the power of credit card providers to raise rates and to change terms, and potentially made national parks less safe for families.
The good news:
- The bill extends the grace period from 30 to 60 days before credit card companies could increase the interest rate on the consumer's balance. That effectively bans "universal default," the practice of raising interest rates after a customer is 30 days late. If the customer pays on time after the 60 days for six months, the credit card company must revert back to the old interest rate.
- Customers must be given 45 days notice before implementing the new rate, if the credit card company increases the interest rate on its customers universally.
- The bill also freezes the initial interest rate of the cardholder for the first year they have the card and prohibits credit card companies from charging cardholders a penalty fee when they exceed their credit limit (unless specifically agreed to in writing).
Additionally, the bill protects the credit rating of younger Americans. Americans under 21 years of age must have a co-signer who can vouch that the minor has means to pay the credit card bill or agree to be equally responsible for payment.
- Under the new law, credit card companies must provide a clear detailed billing statement that does away with hidden fees and discloses any changes made in billing by the company.
The Bad News:
However to get this bill through, the House and the Senate pasted on an amendment to allow persons with concealed gun permits to carry them in national parks. As a poison pill amendment, the defeat would have caused the whole deal to be scrapped. Sam Farr (D-CA) vehemently spoke out against the gun portion of the bill, saying that it was "dumb amendment and Congress should be embarrassed we have to vote on it." The bill passed 279 to 147 (Boswell, King, Latham, yea; Loebsack, nay; Braley, No vote) in the House and passed last week in the Senate 67 to 29 (Harkin, nay, Grassley, yea).
As reported on the Huffington Post, John Waterman, president, U.S. Park Rangers Lodge, Fraternal Order of Police: "One should ask, what do guns have to do with credit cards? We are disappointed that congress chose to disregard the safety of U.S. Park Rangers, the most assaulted federal officer, and forgo the environmental process set up by them to assure the protection of our national parks. If signed by Obama, this will clearly be a change in the president's rhetoric towards taking better care of our environment and protecting federal employees."