Watch Out For Sneaky New Credit Card Fees

Remember the CARD Act, that shiny new law that’s supposed to stop credit card issuers from hitting you with all kinds of nasty fees and force them to disclose all of their terms? Well, even if you do, it looks like the card issuers have forgotten all about it. They’re working overtime to come up with a raft of new charges on things that aren’t covered by the new law, like annual fees and cash advances.

The Wall Street Journal counted the beans, and found that there are a lot of them:

[T]he banks are getting aggressive. According to a July 22 report from Pew Charitable Trusts, a nonpartisan research group, the industry’s median annual fee on bank credit cards jumped 18% to $59 between July 2009 and March 2010. At credit unions, annual fees soared 67% to $25. During the same period, the median cash-advance and balance-transfer fees jumped by 33%.

All of these increases are perfectly legal, of course. Banks and other issuers would have a difficult time extending credit to consumers, even at high interest rates, if they couldn’t augment those revenues with fee income. “We’re coming out of a deep recession that issuers are still working through,” says Peter Garuccio, a spokesman for the American Bankers Association.

Consumer advocates are fighting back against the worst of the fees, and the Consumer Federation of America sent a letter to the government warning that some represent “potential violations of the Credit Card Act.”

But, as the WSJ points out, the new law is expected to do away with $390 million in fees, and banks are going to do whatever they can to get some of it back. “It’s a race between regulators writing ever-more-complex laws and credit-card companies setting up ever-more-complex fees,” said Victor Stango, an associate economist with the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.

A Consumer’s Guide to the Latest Credit-Card Traps []