Credit card issuers in support of debt repayment program

The actions of credit card issuers have come under close scrutiny of late. In attempt to gain some positive press, 10 of the major credit card companies have announced changes in debt management plans allowing consumers the chance to lower payments and qualify for enhanced benefits in recognized credit counseling services programs.

This new tiered system qualifies consumers for special benefits they might not otherwise be able to tap into. Among the highlights: lower interest rates, waived late fees and minimum payments. The goal is to help consumers pay off their high-interest credit cards.

The hope is this plan will help many who were previously not eligible for a debt management plan under the former stricter criteria. Now, debtors may qualify for either a 1.75% or 2% monthly payment, depending on income.

Stephen Marcus, chief executive officer of A New Horizon Credit Counseling Services in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., said "We've always had a hardship program in place."

But credit card issuers weren't quick to recognize the value of such programs. "Public pressure has led to them embracing these programs," Marcus said.

Under the plan, those who qualify will work with certified credit counselors to establish a realistic budget based on individual circumstances. This, says Marcus, will hopefully help keep many from having t file bankruptcy.

The credit card issuers currently participating are American Express, Bank of America, Chase Card Services, CITI, Discover Financial Services, GE Money, HSBC Card Services and Wells Fargo Card Services.

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