Interest and Fees Bring Credit Card Market Onto CFPB’s Radar

The bureau estimates consumers pay $120 billion per year in credit card interest and fees, prompting it to review industry practices and fair competition in the credit card market.

01/21/2022 11:15 A.M.

3 minute read

Credit card interest and fees have increased from 2020 to 2021 and credit card debt is on the rise again.

Credit card debt started to decline during the pandemic when consumers reduced their borrowing and paid down their card balances, but it is changing course as the economy has improved, according to a blog post from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

“At almost a trillion dollars outstanding, credit cards are the largest consumer lending product by [a] number of users—over 175 million consumers have at least one credit card—and one of the largest sources of consumer debt,” the CFPB reports. “From 2018 to 2020, the CFPB estimates that Americans paid roughly $120 billion per year in credit card interest and fees. That works out to about $1,000 per year for every American household.”

In 2018, credit card interest and fees reached $119 billion, and increased to $128 billion in 2019 before declining to $117 billion in 2020.

According to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York’s latest report on total household debt, credit card debt balances grew by $17 billion in the second and third quarters of 2021. However, credit card balances remain $123 billion lower than at the end of 2019.

Given all these changes, the CFPB is focused on robust and fair competition in the credit card market by:

  • Uncovering unfair, anticompetitive practices.
  • Making it simpler to compare, switch or refinance your credit card.
  • Scrutinizing “junk” fees.

The CFPB estimates that credit card companies assessed $14 billion in late fee penalties alone in 2019, which it says fall disproportionately on Americans with lower credit scores. In addition, credit card companies are levying billions in cash advance fees, balance transfer fees, foreign currency fees and more. The bureau says it will consider ways to help consumers cut down on these fees that drive up the total cost of credit.

Know My Debt Resource

ACA International’s Know My Debt website is a free and insightful resource for consumers seeking answers to questions such as:

  • How do I improve my credit score?
  • When is a debt considered delinquent?
  • Can a debt collector call me on a Sunday?

Know My Debt is a consumer education website created by the members of ACA. The site delivers tips and clearly worded explanations aimed at helping consumers improve their financial literacy and resolve their debts. It can be helpful for consumers navigating credit card debt, for example, and for ACA member agencies to share as a resource on their own website.

Learn how to add the Know My Debt link to your website to help spread the word on this valuable resource below:

  1. On your website, create a link on your consumer resource page called Know My Debt: Explaining Consumer Rights and Navigating Debt Solutions.
  2. Use this address for the hyperlink: https://www.knowmydebt.com.
  3. Remove existing references and hyperlinks to Ask Doctor Debt (https://www.askdoctordebt.com).

Know My Debt explains:

  • The laws and regulations related to debt and credit that protect consumers;
  • How to work with a debt collector on delinquent debts, including specific explanations for student loan debt; and
  • Answers to common questions about credit reporting and credit scores.

Visit the Know My Debt website at www.knowmydebt.com.

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