This New Rule Will Cap Credit Card Late Fees at $8

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) issued a new rule on Tuesday capping late fees on credit cards. The move slashes the typical late fee from an average of around $32 down to just $8, saving affected consumers an estimated $220 per year on average.

How the new rule reins in credit card late fees

The new regulation comes after the CFPB reviewed data showing credit card companies have been steadily hiking late fees higher and higher over the last decade by exploiting a loophole in the 2009 Card Act. That law allowed issuers to raise fees to adjust for inflation, which they took full advantage of.

“For over a decade, credit card giants have been exploiting a loophole to harvest billions of dollars in junk fees from American consumers,” CFPB Director Rohit Chopra sad in the release. “Today’s rule ends the era of big credit card companies hiding behind the excuse of inflation when they hike fees on borrowers and boost their own bottom lines.” Here’s how the release breaks down the main takeaways of the new rule:

  • Lowers the immunity provision dollar amount for late fees to $8: Based on data analyzed by the CFPB, a late fee of $8 would be sufficient for larger card issuers, on average, to cover collection costs incurred as a result of late payments.

  • Ends abuse of the automatic annual inflation adjustment: The CFPB found that many issuers hiked their late fees in lockstep each year without evidence of increased costs. The CFPB’s final rule eliminates the automatic annual inflation adjustment for the $8 late fee threshold. This adjustment was added by the Federal Reserve Board and is not required by law. The CFPB will instead monitor market conditions and adjust the $8 late fee immunity threshold as necessary.

  • Requires credit card issuers to show their math: Larger card issuers will be able to charge fees above the threshold so long as they can prove the higher fee is necessary to cover their actual collection costs.

By capping late fees at a reasonable $8 level, the CFPB estimates the new policy will save consumers billions of dollars annually in excessive penalty charges. The rule is set to take effect later this spring.

However, while the late fee reduction provides some relief, remember this is only a bandage on the larger problem of credit card debt. With interest rates on unpaid balances still averaging around 20% or higher, the core issue of making it difficult for Americans to get out of credit card debt remains. As always, you should try to pay your credit card bill on time, and always pay enough to avoid keeping a balance. For more, here’s the most strategic time to pay your credit card balance.


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