Think credit reform ala the CARD Act is helping consumers? Think again! The Center for Responsible Lending (CRL) claims that card companies are doing whatever they can to add, um, whimsical price changes and interest rate increases for multitudes of customers. Here are 10 ways credit card companies are still putting the screws to their clients--even their best ones.

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1. Pre-emptive rate hikes. One of the largest issuers recently hiked the rate across the board on its low risk consumers who have always paid on time to an outrageous 30%! A new Federal Reserve study on the CARD Act shows that 54% of banks have already increased or plan to increase the rates on their prime customers. But wait, there's more! 74% of banks have or will increase rates on those with credit problems.

2. Penalty rates are also going up. You can be hit with these if you pay even one day late or exceed your limit. There's a reason for the rush to screw the customer--as with regular rate increases, anybody who has an APR raised to a penalty rate before the new CARD law takes effect does not benefit from its rules on APR changes. Rate changes are permanent and will not be reversed, even if implemented the day before the reform date.

3. Issuers are reducing credit limits. They are doing this sometimes with no notice, says consumer Web site This can harm cardholders' credit ratings by reducing the amount of available credit and thus increasing credit utilization, a key component of credit scoring models.

4. Getting approved for new cards is tougher than ever. The Federal Reserve study shows that 47% of the loan officers said they have raised or will raise the credit score requirements for prime customers. And for sub-prime consumers, that number is 53%. So it's harder to dump a mean card for a nicer one.

5. Increased fees. The CRL says that card companies have raised cash advance and balance transfer fees to unprecedented highs. Can you hear your wallet screaming?

6. Annual fees to be imposed. claims that while only about 20% of cards have annual fees, that will go up. And according to the Federal Reserve, nearly 40% of the banks had increased or will increase the annual fees on credit cards. Some Bank of America cards for existing customers now have $29 to $99 annual fees. So, they expect you to pay for the privilege of paying....

7. Variable interest rates. CRL states that card issuers are converting fixed rates to variable ones, just when prime rate is extremely low and likely to go up. Also, issuers are adding floors to the variable rates which limit how low they can go (the rates, not the card companies--there's no end to how low those guys can go!), so if rates go down, the banks' profits can actually increase because they won't have to pass on the reduction to their customers.

8. More dirty tricks with fees. When is a fee a fee? When credit card companies say it is--banks are changing the fees' definitions to trap more customers. For example, some changed the definition of an international fee to apply even if the transaction is in US dollars. Some issuers are adding fees they never had before, says CRL. For example, at least one large company added an inactivity fee. Another added a fee if activity falls below a certain level (a low activity fee). They should call it the damned-if-you-do-damned-if-you-don't fee.

9. Stingy rewards. Rewards cards are less rewarding. According to, some issuers are changing rewards programs, like making the threshold for a free flight or getting cash back higher. So the million air-miles you spent ten years racking up won't get you that first-class flight to Tahiti--more like a Greyhound to Bakersfield.

10. Disappearing accounts. Finally, some issurers are closing accounts, sometimes without notice, according to That means you could be stranded on a trip or embarassed while taking a client to lunch--a tough way to discover that your Visa card was canceled.

Dirtbag credit card companies can sneak in all the high fees and dirty tricks they want, but they can only shaft you if you let them. If you can't just pay off your cards, now is the time to consolidate your debt with a home equity loan or line of credit. Then tell those losers to take their fees and.... Your mortgage lender can't pull dirty tricks like yanking up your interest rate and inventing fees just because. Your debt consolidation interest rate should be much lower and you may get a nice tax deduction too. Not to mention the satisfaction of telling off your bank.