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Fed's New Site a Flop

The Fed recently launched a new site that provides consumers with online access to credit card agreements from hundreds of major credit issuers. When I first heard about it, I thought this could turn out to be a pretty useful tool.

Credit card agreements are notoriously hard to find when you have a good reason to read one, and most consumers frankly fail to ever make the effort. But if they could all be found in one online repository, it would makes things much easier for everyone, right? Well, now that I've had a chance to check out the new Consumer's Guide to Credit Card Agreements, I doubt I'll be making any more visits. It's a shame, because it seems like so much more could have been done to make this a better tool for consumers. The first thing I realized is that you can't actually view agreements for specific credit cards. For example, while you can search for generic agreements from all the major credit issuers, you can't find and read a specific agreement for your Citi Platinum Select or Chase Sapphire card.

If you want to do that, you'll still need to go directly through your credit card issuer. The next thing I noticed was the Fed's disclaimer that basically says the data is sent to them by the respective credit issuers and they don't do anything to make sure it's legitimate or up-to-date. Apparently they do update the database on a quarterly basis, but that's about it. Furthermore, if you happen to have any questions regarding the data, they just direct you back to the respective credit issuer. So what we really have is simply an online database holding a bunch of generic agreements that could be completely out of date.

Considering how fast things are changing in the credit card industry these days, I don't see how this is helpful to consumers. I decided to run a quick search for Citibank N.A., which spit out eleven different consumer agreements with an effective date of 12/31/09. Which one was worth reading? It was impossible to tell - there wasn't even any data linked to the search results to help decipher what I should click on. So I downloaded a few of the pdf files, to a look, and didn't really find any useful information. What a waste. The bottom line is if you want to read your credit card agreement, request it directly from the credit issuer. 

Per the Fed's credit card rules, your bank is required to provide you with a copy of the agreement upon request.  This new site, however, is a total flop.

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Joshua Heckathorn's picture

Joshua Heckathorn was President of Creditnet, is a credit expert and has been featured on CNNMoney, FOX Business, Yahoo Finance, The Street, and many other national publications during the past ten years.  He received a Bachelor of Science in Management (Finance) from Brigham Young University's Marriott School of Business and earned his MBA from Seattle University.

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