Credit CardsStarting today, credit and gift card companies will have to comply with new rules that cover fees, interest, and expiration dates.

The new rules are the final part of a phase in of the “Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility and Disclosure Act of 2009” (CARD act). 

As of today, if a consumer has an otherwise clean history with the company, the most that a credit card company will be allowed to charge as a late or over the limit fee is $25.  If the consumer has made late payments, or gone over the limit, within the previous six months, the fee can be $35.

The new rules also state that companies cannot charge a consumer more in late fees than they currently owe.  For example, if the minimum payment is $18, that will be the most they can add on as a late fee.

Inactivity fees have been outlawed, and companies that raise a consumer’s interest rate must reevaluate that increase within 6 months. 

The CARD act also covers gift cards. Starting  today, gift cards are not allowed to expire until five years has passed.  Inactivity fees cannot be deducted until the card has gone unused for a full year, and the card issuer is only allowed to charge one fee per month. In the past, consumers had complained about multiple monthly charges quickly draining their gift cards of value.

Experts generally agree that the changes will help consumers.  But some are concerned that the CARD act will cause banks to tighten credit, or that new fees will simple replace the old ones.