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Learn About the Credit CARD Act of 2009

Published September 13, 2023
4 min read

Key points about: the 2009 CARD Act

  1. The 2009 Credit CARD Act regulates credit card issuer practices to help increase transparency and protect consumers.

  2. The CARD Act limits fees and regulates credit card marketing and billing practices.

  3. The CARD Act mandates that some credit card language remains consistent from one credit card company to another to help consumers better understand terms and conditions.

In 2009, the United States Congress passed federal legislation called the Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility, and Disclosure (CARD) Act to bolster consumer protections concerning credit cards. It focused on improving creditors’ transparency and minimizing unexpected or unreasonable fees. Its reforms made credit card information more accessible and uniform to help consumers compare credit cards at a glance and make the best financial decision for them. Read on to learn more about the CARD Act’s history and what it means for you as a consumer today.

What is the Credit CARD Act of 2009?

According to the Federal Trade Commission, the Credit CARD Act amended the Truth in Lending Act to safeguard borrowers from some creditor practices. Before the legislation, consumers sometimes found credit card terms and conditions confusing, and many people didn’t always understand the rules for fees, interest rate increases, and deadlines. Now, credit card companies must disclose much more information to potential customers in straightforward language that remains consistent across credit card companies. Card issuers also must communicate clearly with existing cardmembers about billing and changes to their accounts.

Understanding what the Credit CARD Act entails may help you choose the best credit options for you.

What does the Credit CARD Act of 2009 do for consumers?

Limited interest rate increases

Before the CARD Act, creditors could increase interest rates without advance notice. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) says that the Credit CARD Act typically requires creditors provide at least 45 days' notice before raising interest rates. Any interest increases will usually only affect future purchases, not existing balances, unless certain exceptions apply. Similarly, credit card companies typically can’t increase the annual percentage rate (APR) on accounts until at least a year after their activation, but the CFPB notes there are exceptions to this as well. In addition to providing you with advance notice, a credit card company also has to inform you of your right to cancel before an increase goes into effect.

Improved protections for young people

Young adults may not always understand how to manage a credit card, and mistakes could have long-term financial consequences.

Restricted some fees

Prior to the CARD Act, borrowers often faced unexpected fees for transactions that exceeded their credit card limits, comparable to overdraft fees. Now, customers must opt-in before a credit issuer can charge an over-limit fee. The CARD Act also instituted limits on other types of credit card fees, according to the CFPB. For example, an annual fee can’t exceed 25% of each card’s initial credit limit during the first year after the account is opened.

Prohibited double-cycle billing

Some creditors used to use a process called double-cycle billing–a way of calculating credit card interest that took the average daily balance of the current month and the previous month. It meant you sometimes could end up paying interest on a debt after already paying it off the previous month. The CARD Act banned the practice altogether.

Regulated deadlines 

Without regulations for credit card payment deadlines, your bill due date could fall on different days each month. Following the CARD Act, deadlines must fall on the same date each month except on holidays. In those cases, the creditor cannot treat a payment received on the next business day as late, according to the CFPB. Credit card companies also must provide their customers with monthly statements at least 21 days before their payment is due. That way, a sudden deadline can never surprise you.

Did you know?

The Credit Card Act of 2009 protects consumers from some unexpected fees, but many credit cards still have other fees, such as annual fees, just for using a card. Discover has no annual fee on any of our cards.

What doesn’t the CARD Act cover?

Corporate credit accounts

The Credit CARD Act only applies to consumer credit cards.

Deferred interest promotions

According to the CFPB, a credit card issuer may advertise deferred interest promotions using language like “no interest if paid in full in 12 months.” With deferred interest promotions, customers who don’t pay off their entire balance within a designated period can owe retroactive interest on the whole amount, not just the remaining unpaid balance. Cardmembers might find that they owe more than they expect at the end of the promotional period.

Discover does not offer credit cards with deferred interest.

No maximum interest rate

While the CARD Act made strides in improving transparency and communication about interest rate increases, it didn’t introduce a general cap on interest rates. Someone with a lower credit score may only qualify for cards with higher interest rates.

Interest rate increases 

The CARD Act didn’t prevent credit card issuers from increasing rates. For example, if you’re more than 60 days late on a monthly payment, your issuer might charge an increased “penalty APR” or a higher interest rate on your existing balance.

The 2009 Credit CARD Act attempted to demystify credit cards’ terms and conditions to help people make more responsible credit decisions, compare credit card options more freely, and avoid some fees. While the act makes it easier to understand terms, it’s still important to conduct careful research before opening a credit card account.

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