Dealing with credit cards

There are many benefits to having a credit card. It may offer an extra layer of security when faced with unexpected expenses, and some offer rebates, gas, air miles, and other perks. Most consumers know they should spend wisely, but credit cards often lead to financial hardship and the difficulties that come with a bad credit history. Whether or not you are in the market for a credit card, our tips can help you protect your financial future.

  1. Comparison shop for a better deal. Comparing cards can be can be difficult, given the many, many fees, introductory offers, varying APRs, and credit limits available to you. NerdWallet has a useful tool that will compare over 1,000 credit offers, based on your individual circumstance.1  You can also print out a checklist to do a side-by-side comparison of credit card offers. 
  2. When shopping around, beware of secured credit cards. They may be the only option for those with bad credit, but the arrangement is like lending money to yourself. The opportunity to lend money to yourself comes with an APR and fees for membership, late payments, and/or over-limit charges.2
  3. Challenge fees. The CARD Act of 2009 prohibits companies from charging more than 25% of the credit limit during the first year. For example: if your credit limit is $300, the company many not charge more than $75 in fees. You may also be able to negotiate the reduction or forgiveness of exorbitant fees, e.g. a $25 late payment fee on a $20 balance, by calling customer service and asking to speak with a supervisor.
  4. Watch for changes to your existing accounts. The CARD Act of 2009 also requires credit companies to send notice of changes to accounts 45 days in advance. If you don't like the changes, call customer service to find out about your options.
  5. Avoid fraud. You may read more on the identity theft tip sheet, but there are a few basic ways to protect yourself from identity thieves. Keep your credit card in sight when you use it, and try avoid situations in which the seller might walk off with it, e.g. restaurant servers. Immediately call the toll-free, 24-hour service line for your credit company when you realize that your card has been lost or stolen. After you report it, you will have no liability for charges that you did not make.3
  6. Consider opting out of pre-screened credit offers. Pre-screened credit card offers can easily be stolen from your mail or your trash, giving identity thieves the opportunity to ruin your financial life. Opting out is a smart way for you to protect yourself without spending time sorting and shredding your mail. To opt out for five years, call 1-888-5-OPT-OUT (1-888-567-8688) or go to www.optoutprescreen.com.4  To opt out permanently, you must do so by mail. The optoutprescreen.com website has a form that you may print and mail to the address indicated. You may also send requests to each of the credit reporting bureaus, making sure to include your home telephone number, name, Social Security number, and date of birth. Mail requests to opt out permanently must be sent to each of the address below:

Experian
Opt Out
P.O. Box 919
Allen, TX 75013

TransUnion
Name Removal Option 
P.O. Box 505 
Woodlyn, PA 19094 

Equifax, Inc.
Options
P.O. Box 740123
Atlanta, GA 30374-0123

Innovis Consumer Assistance
P.O. Box 495
Pittsburgh, PA 15230-0495

Sources:

  1. http://www.nerdwallet.com/credit-cards/
  2. Counsumerist: http://consumerist.com/2010/05/12/rent-to-own-is-loansharking/ 
  3. http://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0216-protecting-against-credit-card-fraud 
  4. FTC information on opt out: http://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0148-prescreened-credit-and-insurance-offers 

Issue updates

News Release | U.S. PIRG | Consumer Protection

Our veterans need protection at home -- from predatory lenders and financial fraud

While many Americans honor our active and retired military on Veterans Day, federal officials are threatening to weaken financial protections for servicemembers, veterans and their families.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Update to How You Can Change Your Experian Credit Freeze PIN | Mike Litt

Our consumer campaign director provides an update to how you can change your Experian credit freeze PIN after a security flaw was discovered two weeks ago.

> Keep Reading
News Release | U.S. PIRG | Consumer Protection

Hurricane Michael coverage: Data, resources and interview opportunities

With Hurricane Michael expected to make landfall Wednesday in western Florida as a major, Category 3 hurricane, then continue through the Southeast, The Public Interest Network (which includes U.S. PIRG, Environment America, Environment Florida, Environment Georgia, Environment North Carolina and Environment Virginia, among other organizations) is sharing information to help your readers and viewers contextualize the major environmental, health and consumer concerns posed by Michael.

> Keep Reading
News Release | U.S. PIRG | Consumer Protection

You Should Change Your Experian Credit Freeze PIN

Our press release recommending consumers change their credit freeze PINs on their Experian credit reports after reports yesterday revealed a security flaw with Experian’s online PIN retrieval page.

> Keep Reading
News Release | U.S. PIRG | Consumer Protection

Experian Should Reissue New Credit Freeze PINs Immediately

Our statement about Experian's security flaw with its credit freeze PIN retrieval form. 

> Keep Reading

Pages

News Release | U.S. PIRG | Consumer Protection

Our veterans need protection at home -- from predatory lenders and financial fraud

While many Americans honor our active and retired military on Veterans Day, federal officials are threatening to weaken financial protections for servicemembers, veterans and their families.

> Keep Reading
News Release | U.S. PIRG | Consumer Protection

Hurricane Michael coverage: Data, resources and interview opportunities

With Hurricane Michael expected to make landfall Wednesday in western Florida as a major, Category 3 hurricane, then continue through the Southeast, The Public Interest Network (which includes U.S. PIRG, Environment America, Environment Florida, Environment Georgia, Environment North Carolina and Environment Virginia, among other organizations) is sharing information to help your readers and viewers contextualize the major environmental, health and consumer concerns posed by Michael.

> Keep Reading
News Release | U.S. PIRG | Consumer Protection

You Should Change Your Experian Credit Freeze PIN

Our press release recommending consumers change their credit freeze PINs on their Experian credit reports after reports yesterday revealed a security flaw with Experian’s online PIN retrieval page.

> Keep Reading
News Release | U.S. PIRG | Consumer Protection

Experian Should Reissue New Credit Freeze PINs Immediately

Our statement about Experian's security flaw with its credit freeze PIN retrieval form. 

> Keep Reading
News Release | U.S. PIRG | Consumer Protection

U.S. PIRG response to reports of Facebook security breach

Facebook announced today that earlier this week, "attackers exploited a vulnerability in Facebook’s code that impacted “View As”, a feature that lets people see what their own profile looks like to someone else. This allowed them to steal Facebook access tokens which they could then use to take over people’s accounts."

> Keep Reading

Pages

Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Equifax Breach: One Year Later

A year ago tomorrow, Equifax announced that hackers had breached its system and accessed the data of nearly 150 million U.S. consumers. To mark the anniversary of that notorious announcement, we are releasing a report containing suggestions on how state and federal authorities and consumers can safeguard personal information.

> Keep Reading
Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Trouble in Toyland 2017

For over 30 years, U.S. PIRG Education Fund has conducted an annual survey of toy safety, which has led to over 150 recalls and other regulatory actions over the years, and has helped educate the public and policymakers on the need for continued action to protect the health and wellbeing of children.

Toys are safer than ever before, thanks to decades of work by product safety advocates, parents, the leadership of Congress, state legislatures, and the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). 

> Keep Reading
Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Lead In Fidget Spinners

While lead in toys has become less prevalent in recent years, U.S. PIRG Education Fund tested several models of one of today’s hottest toys, fidget spinners, for the toxic heavy metal. Laboratory results indicated that two fidget spinners purchased at Target and distributed by Bulls i Toy, L.L.C. contained extremely high levels of lead. U.S. PIRG Education Fund calls on Target and Bulls i Toy to immediately recall these two fidget spinners and investigate how such high levels of lead were found in these toys. Also, we call on the U.S.

> Keep Reading
Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund & Frontier Group | Consumer Protection

Older Consumers in the Financial Marketplace

Older consumers are at risk of harm from predatory financial behavior. An analysis of more than 72,000 financial complaints submitted by older consumers (those 62 years of age and older) to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB, or Consumer Bureau) and contained in its Consumer Complaint Database suggests that mistreatment of older consumers by financial companies is widespread.

> Keep Reading
Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Protecting Those Who Serve

This report, the tenth in our series on the CFPB's Public Consumer Complaint Database, is called "Protecting Those Who Serve." It is an analysis of over 44,000 consumer complaints from active-duty servicemembers, veterans and their families. The report also explains the work the CFPB and its Office of Servicemember Affairs does to protect military families in the financial marketplace. Debt problems also are a leading cause of revoking secuirty clearances, which affects military preparedness.

> Keep Reading

Pages

Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Update to How You Can Change Your Experian Credit Freeze PIN | Mike Litt

Our consumer campaign director provides an update to how you can change your Experian credit freeze PIN after a security flaw was discovered two weeks ago.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Public Health, Consumer Protection

Ten year anniversary of safer school supplies: Happy Birthday, CPSIA! | Kara Cook-Schultz

Landmark consumer legislation has had a monumental effect on protecting kids’ health.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Consumer Protection

ID Theft & Privacy Checklists | Mike Litt

Today, we're releasing our revamped Identity Theft and Online Privacy resources.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Consumer Protection

U.S. PIRG Urges Appeals Court to Block President Trump's Illegal Appointment of Mick Mulvaney as Acting Director of the CFPB | Mike Landis

Last week, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit heard oral argument in English v. Trump, a case involving a challenge to President Trump’s appointment of Mick Mulvaney as the acting director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). U.S. PIRG, along with nine other consumer advocacy groups, has filed two amicus briefs in the case (one in the trial court and one in the appellate court) in support of the plaintiff, Leandra English, who is the CFPB’s deputy director and, we believe, the rightful acting director of the agency.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Consumer Tips and FAQ about the Equifax Breach | Mike Litt

Hackers gained access to the personal data of over 145 million Americans in the Equifax breach. Here are some recommended actions consumers can take to protect themselves and answers to frequently asked questions.

> Keep Reading

Pages

View AllRSS Feed

Support us

Your tax-deductible donation supports U.S. PIRG Education Fund’s work to educate consumers on the issues that matter, and the powerful interests that are blocking progress.

Learn More

You can also support U.S. PIRG Education Fund’s work through bequests, contributions from life insurance or retirement plans, securities contributions and vehicle donations.