WDAY: The News Leader

Published August 23, 2010, 09:30 AM

New federal provisions on credit and gift cards benefit the consumer

(WDAY TV) - It's being called a new day for plastic. New federal provisions on credit and gift cards are tightening the rules on fees for credit cards and lengthening the expiration dates on gift cards.

School supplies and video games are at the top of the Tonsfeldt family's shopping list today. Michelle and her three children make their way through the maze of electronics and clothes, all to eventually check out and put the entire pile on one of these.

MICHELLE: "Probably about 95 percent of the time I'm a credit card shopper!"

Now, consumers like Tonsfeldt have help: provisions on the Credit Card Act. Card companies cannot assess a late fee of more than 25 dollars unless one of the consumer's last six payments was late. In that case, the fee may go up to 35 dollars and late fees can't be more than the minimum payment.

MICHELLE: "It is concerning especially since I have a 13-year old who I know will be starting to, if I want try to introduce her to that concept of a credit card."

JOSHUA HUFFMAN/VILLAGE CREDIT COUNSELOR: "The bread and butter used to be the late fees over limit fees and now they have to kind of find different ways to bring that revenue in."

You still have to keep tabs on your monthly statement for changing interest rates or annual fees.

JOSHUA: "Some of these charges get kind of exorbitant."

As far as gift cards, they can't expire for at least 5 years and companies can't charge more than one fee, of any kind, in a single month. So families like the Tonsfeldt's, who put nearly every purchase on the plastic, can take comfort knowing they're paying for what they actually purchased and not much more.

For gift cards, companies cannot charge an inactivity fee until the card hasn't been used for 12 months.