The CARD Act has provided consumers with a lot more protection from unscrupulous credit card companies than we ever had before. But that doesn't mean you don't have to keep looking out for #1. Many borrowers with credit cards now have a false sense of security about their cards, which could cause them financial or credit problems.

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Credit Card Companies Can Still Increase Your Interest Rate

The only difference is that now they have to give you 45 days notice and allow you to opt out of the increase. If you don't contact the company, your rate will increase. If you do choose to opt out, there are consequences. Your account is closed, so you won't have access to that credit anymore. If you're using it for necessities like to provide cash flow for a business, that could be a problem. Any automatic payments attached to that card will not go through anymore; if you don't fix it you could really damage your credit. In addition, closing the account could lower your available credit and raise your credit utilization, which generally drops your credit score.

You May Not Get Any Notice of a Rate Increase

I know; I just said that you get 45 days notice. I lied -- you don't always get 45 days. if you are 60 days or more behind on your credit card payments, the company can raise your interest rate without giving you the heads-up. Finally, you may have a card with a variable rate. When the CARD Act was passed, lenders were given several months to find or create loopholes and keep the money coming. During this time, your credit card company may have quietly converted your fixed-rate card to a variable rate card, knowing that interest rates can't go any lower so they have to move higher. Rate increases on cards with variable rates tied to financial indexes can come without notice to you.

Read Your Statement

One useful piece of information that comes with your statement, thanks to the CARD Act, is the number of months it will take to pay off your balance if you only make the minimum payment. It's probably decades. You also get to see what kind of payment it would take to pay off your balance in three years. This is the magic number -- most debt management plans have goals of getting you debt-free within three years, and you should make it your goal too. If that number is simply too impossible, consider consulting a credit counseling service about negotiating lower payments and interest rates, or contact your credit card companies directly about closing the accounts and lowering the rates so you can pay off the balances and start your new debt-free life.