Do the new credit card laws help you?

A new federal credit-card law takes effect today. The loftily-named Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure Act of 2009 is designed to help consumers reduce fees and interest charges.

But of course, card issuers have already come up with new tactics that could prove even more costly to even the most conscientious cardholder.

The law makes some important changes:

- Card companies must now show customers on their statements how long it would take to pay off the balance if they only make the minimum monthly payment.

- Customers can only exceed their credit limit if they agree ahead of time to pay a penalty fee.

- Interest-rate increases will affect only new purchases, not existing balances, unless a cardholder misses payments for more than 60 days.

In return, card issuers are expected to charge higher annual fees, higher balance-transfer charges, and more for overseas transactions. Lucky us!

The average American was running a $5,400 credit card balance in 2009, according to TransUnion, so we can use all the help we can get.
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