Created by FindLaw's team of legal writers and editors | Last reviewed June 20, 2016
Most people have at least one credit card or check card, and usually use it on a daily basis. Banks and credit card companies are constantly creating new sales pitches and products to entice people to sign up for the latest card they are offering. However, before signing up for a new card, it's important for consumers to understand the laws and regulations governing the use of credit cards and check cards. FindLaw's Credit Cards section provides information and resources related to credit cards and check cards, including a guide to choosing the best card for you. In this section, you can also find an overview of the various laws that affect credit cards, such as the Equal Credit Opportunity Act and the Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure (CARD) Act.
Choosing the Right Credit Card
Pretty much everyone receives offers for credit cards in the mail, probably on a daily basis. These offers include promises for rewards if you sign up with the credit card. The rewards vary from free travel to cash rewards. But, it's important to read and understand the terms of a credit card before signing up.
The Truth in Lending Act and the Credit CARD Act are the two major laws that govern credit cards. The Truth in Lending Act requires credit card companies to disclose the key terms of the credit card in the application or solicitation. The Credit CARD Act was passed more recently and put additional requirements on credit card companies. A few of the requirements provided by the Credit CARD Act are a 45 day notice for any key changes to the terms of a credit card, sending the credit card statement 21 days before the balance is due, and no retroactive changes to the rate on an existing balance.
Two important things to pay attention to when reviewing the terms of a credit card are the annual percentage rate (APR) and any fees associated with the credit card. The APR is basically the cost of borrowing money on a yearly basis, so the lower the APR the less money it will cost to borrow money. When examining the APR, you should note if there is an introductory or teaser rate, whether it's a fixed or variable rate, if there's a grace period between your purchases and when the bill is due, and how the balance for the APR will be calculated.
It's also important to pay close attention to the types of fees you'll be subject to by having the credit card. Some examples of common credit card fees are annual maintenance fees, transaction fees, and late fees. Since fees are how many credit card companies make their money, it's important to read and understand exactly what fees will be associated with your credit card.
Hiring an Attorney
Generally, picking or using a credit card or check card doesn't require the help of an attorney. However, if you have an issue with a credit or check card that you don't think you can handle on your own, you may want to contact a local consumer attorney to discuss your legal options.
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