Banks to charge reliable credit card customers

October 20, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
Customers who pay off their credit card balance every month might think they are immune to fees, but now some banks are planning to charge even reliable customers an annual fee. This comes on the heels of new legislation that restricts credit card companies from raising interest rates without warning.

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More credit card fees are targeting stable, conservative spenders. Bank of America confirmed on Tuesday, that some customers who don't even carry a balance and who have never paid late, will be charged an annual fee.

"Good consumers will be hit by fees," says Marco Pagani, Ph.D., a San Jose State University assistant professor of finance.

Pagani isn't surprised by the bank's decision. He says it is directly related to the feds crack down on the industry's ability to raise interest rates.

"Since they have less flexibility on the rate they can charge you, they're going to try new structures for fees and pricing," says Pagani.

More and more credit card companies are charging annual fees. At the beginning of this year, 27 percent of companies were doing so -- that's a quarter of them; whereas last year at the same time, only 18 percent were.

Citigroup is hitting customers who don't charge more than $2,400 a year with a new fee and some banks are imposing inactivity fees on those who simply don't use their cards very often.

"They are pushing you to spend the way they want you to spend," says Maria Enomoto from Surepath Financial Solutions.

Enomoto, a credit counselor, says creditors are backing responsible consumers into a corner. She suggests either paying the annual fee or closing the account.

"There is a negative side to that, if I close the account I'm closing how many years of history on my credit report," says Enomoto.

That could impact your credit score. Still, most consumers are willing to take the risk.

"There's too many other possibilities and competitors out there, you go somewhere else," says Jack Cade from Scotts Valley.

"It's almost like they're gouging," says Marilyn Cahill from Fremont.

However, it is the ones who least expected it who are hurting the most.

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