February 28, 2010 in Business

New credit warnings not as startling online

Candice Choi Associated Press
 

NEW YORK – It’s meant to jolt borrowers from the complacency of debt: A new credit card statement that spells out the price of making only minimum payments.

Yet the shock factor may be lost on the growing number of cardholders who bank online and no longer check their paper statements.

As part of the credit card law that went into effect last week, banks are now required to present some jarring math. Namely, how much you need to pay each month to wipe your balance clean within three years, and how long it would take to be debt-free if only minimum payments are made.

It’s valuable information, but there’s a glitch for those who do most of their banking online.

Rather than putting the new minimum payment warnings front and center for cardholders when they log on, most banks are taking refuge by limiting the changes to monthly statements.

That means cardholders will need to download or view a PDF copy of their full statements to see the new calculations.

“The warning was designed to ensure people are aware of just how expensive credit can be,” said Ruth Susswein of Consumer Action, an advocacy group. “If they don’t have easy access to this information, it makes that element of the law moot.”

There’s no telling how many cardholders click past the account summary page, which typically provides the essentials – the current balance, minimum payment due and recent transaction activity.

Ideally, that’s also where the minimum payment warning would appear, even if cardholders had to scroll down to see it, Susswein said. None of the biggest banks are putting it there, however.

Bank of America, Chase, Citi and others meanwhile note that they’re educating customers via mail and e-mail about the new statements.

At Capital One, for example, cardholders will see banner ads about the new disclosures for at least the next few months when they log on.

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