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Feather River Bulletin
Quincy, California
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April 28, 2010     Feather River Bulletin
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April 28, 2010
 

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Bulletin, Progressive, Record, Reporter Wednesday, April 28, 2010 9B Credit cards: Tke : lew nor0000Ial for consumers and banks NAVIGATING FINANCIAL WATERS MARY SHiITEIS Attorney at Law Passed in May 2009, the Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility & Disclosure Act provides strong and reliable protections for con- sumers and bans unfair and deceptive practices by credit card companies, such as un- fair rate hikes and hidden fees. Several provisions were effective August 2009, and the rest fully implemented in February of this year, American consumers have been struggling with credit card debt for years. A 2009 Neilson Report said the aver- age consumer has five credit cards, with the average household carrying more than $10,000 in debt. Annually, Americans pay approximately $15 billion in just credit card penalty fees. Since the act was passed, 12 of the major U.S. banks and credit unions, in anticipation of losing $50 billion in rev- enues, have raised certain fees and interest rates ap- proximately 23 percent. For decades, credit was available to everyone includ- ing those without the means to repay what they borrowed. Despite unfair rate hikes and hidden fees, easy credit and zero percent introductory promotions tempted many into using credit cards as a bridge through financial crises, as well as a way to finance lifestyles beyond their means. It became common practice to refinance real estate to pay off credit card debt. For years that seemed to work for everyone: Banks made bil- lions from late fees, balance' transfer fees, over-the-limit fees and high interest rates, and consumers juggled their credit card debts while enjoy- ing the benefits of more cash to live on. But with the crash of the financial markets, interest rates rose dramatically and credit card limits froze at balances owed. "Robbing Peter to pay Paul, was no longer an option. The act addressed many of the practices that landed consumers in "credit card hell." It forbids banks from increasing interest rates on existing balances "unless the consumer pays at least 60 days late," restoring the orig- inal rate once the cardholder pays timely for the next six months and mandating that consumers receive 21 days to make a payment instead of 14 days. While the act does not cap interest rates, banks now must provide written notice to consumers 45 days before they increase the annual percent- age rate or before they make any "significant changes to the terms of the account." Consumers can then reject the changes and close the ac- count. One exception is a variable interest rate that is tied to an index. Another exception applies to a consumer's credit limit, which can still be reduced at any time without 45 days, notice. On accounts with more than one interest rate, banks must now apply all additional payments to the highest bal- ance first. Previously, banks credited additional payments to the lowest interest balance allowing the higher balances to earn more interest for the banks. The new provision will stop double cycle billing that used the previous month's balance to calculate interest charges for the next month. The practice of universal default is banned. A con- sumer's interest rate cannot be increased based upon a late payment on a totally un- related account. Banks can no longer charge for phone or Internet pay- ments. An additional fee will only apply when using live services to make a payment. One of the most helpful changes requires banks to clearly indicate on the state- ment "how long it will take to pay off the balance and how much interest the consumer will pay if they only pay the minimum payment each month." That information will give consumers a much-needed re- ality check on the enormous sums they pay in finance charges and hopefully con- tribute to financial responsi- bility and spending restraint. Despite the protections mandated by the act, it is still crucial for consumers to read, understand and monitor the terms of their statements. Nothing should be thrown away until it is read and un- derstood, and banks should be called for any needed clari- fication, soa determination can be made to maintain or close an account. Century Club candidate speaks at celebration The third annual Century Club celebration, held at Graeagle Meadows Golf Club Friday, April 16, was a resounding success, with close to'one hundred local Republicans in attendance. Guest speakers,included Assemblyman Dan Logue along with candidates Damon Dunn, secretary of state, and Sam Aanested, lieutenant governor. Photos by Linda Satchwell Need help REPi If it s ing we can'!ll find somo can. General Bu'--"---:ld:':;Contractorl Calif. Lic. #453927 (530) 283-2035 1 SEAMLESS' eUl"tSRS Save decks & siding from water damage Downspouts water diverter Custom installation Adds value & appeal to your house . 22 Different Colors FREE ESTIMATES 257'7875 CA LIC #690120 Michael Kirack, Owner/Builder Damon Dunn, Republican candidate for secretary of state (shown in bottom photo at left), spoke at the recent Century Club celebration. Dunn said he's running for office as "payback." He came to California as a poor kid and had the opportu- nity to get a great education here, including a degree from Stanford University, where he also had a record-setting college football career. Born in Texas to extreme poverty, Dunn attributes his success "to the opportunities he was afforded when he came to California. "Everything I am,. the state made," he said. Dunn said that he's running for secretary of state because he's interested in promoting "integrity invot- ing," and would like to see a system put in place that would make certain voters were positively identified before they were allowed .to vote. "One person, one vote," he said. "I want to fight for that." In addition, Dunn said that it's the secretary of state's office that is informed every time a business fails in the state, because that office is charged with pulling the business filing. Dunn would like to see exit interviews done with every failed busi- ness. From September 2008 to September 2009, 47,000 busi- nesses went under in Califor- nia he said. Dunn believes tax policies and rigid stan- dards on emissions,for exam- ple, are causing businesses to fail or to leave the state. The trucking industry is seeing an exodus to nearby states like Arizona, where stan- dards aren't as strict. The state "hasn't reduced emis- sions," he said, it has "forced out its tax base/' Dunn would like to instigate a thorough, "intelligent and provable analysis" of failed state busi- nesses so that policy makers would be aware of the detri- mental effects of some of their legislative efforts.  Diamond Mountain Mini Mort Fuel Fill Up Special FREE 22oz. Fountain Drink, 20 oz. Coffee or Cappuccino with 10 gallons of fuel or more with your receipt. No exceptions, I per fill up. Everyday Value II Lunch I For -R Under -- Your choice of 2 hot dogs or corn dogs, 910 Skyline Dr., Susanville 2514)319 drink Is YOUR HOME. SAFE from fire? 100' of DEFENSIBLE SPACE It's the law! lumas County Fire Safe Council (PC FSC) Is offering assistance in creating or maintaining Defensible Space to residents over 60 years of age or disabled living in Plumas County. PC FSC will provide a free Home Ignition Zone consultation for determining work necessary to meet the requirements of the law. PC FSC will procure competitive bids from qualified and insured contractors to meet California's Fire Safe Standards. PC'FSC will certify the work done before payments are made. PC FSC will provide financial assistance based on residents income. Contact Rob Gimbel, c/o Plumas CountyFire Safe Council P.O. Box 1225, Quincy, CA 95971 283-0829 or 283-3739 email: rob @ plumascounty.org, This program is provided by the Plumas County Fire Safe Council with funding from the Plumas County Board of Supervisors, the Plumas NF through the Plumas Resource Advisory Committee, The California Fire Safe Council Clearinghouse with funds from the US Forest Service and assistance from Plumas Corporation and Plumas Rural Services.