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Don't Get Fooled: Opt Out of Opting In

Should you opt out, opt in, opt in to opting out, or opt out of opting in?

So many choices!  But when it comes to over-the-limit fees, there's only one answer in my mind— opting out.

One of the major provisions in the CARD Act of 2009 is that banks will no longer be able to charge over-the-limit fees unless customers choose to be allowed to make purchases in excess of their credit limits.  So, you will have the right to "opt out" of over-the-limit fees, which are often as high as $39, by simply telling your bank you would rather live within your credit limit.

The concept sounds clear enough, but I've heard a lot of stories lately about consumers who have been duped into giving up their new rights under the CARD Act.

If you receive a call from your credit issuer referencing over-the-limit charges, be very cautious.  Don't let it happen to you too!

Here's how the whole pitch might go down:

  • Credit issuer calls to explain how the new federal regulations will change your credit card account in 2010
  • A rep then explains that starting next February any charge in excess of your credit limit will be denied

You're half listening to the conversation while eating dinner and watching the latest episode of "The Biggest Loser" on DVR. So, you hear the words "charges" and "denied", which peak your interest but you're still fairly distracted.

Then, here comes the kicker:

  • The rep says something like, "if you want to have your account stay the same as it is now, you can opt in." The credit issuer may even throw in an incentive like a reduced fee to sweeten the deal.

"Opt in" to what? That should be the first thing that comes out of your mouth, but your favorite contestant is about to get voted off the show and your mashed taters are getting cold. This is a stressful moment.

Instead, I'm afraid a common response in this scenario might be, "yea, I'd rather keep my account the same. Gotta go...Bye!" And just like that you're back to what matters most in life—reality TV.  Unfortunately, you've also left yourself open to getting nailed with a big fee the next time you accidentally exceed your credit limit by a few dollars.

As credit issuers seek to adapt to the new credit card rules prior to February 2010, consumers should prepare to deal with more potentially confusing calls such as this. In fact, it's more important than ever to be on the alert and pay close attention to every bit of communication you receive from your credit card issuers, or any other financial institution for that matter.

Don't allow yourself to get fooled.  Protect your rights, and opt out of opting in to unwanted and painful over-the-limit fees!

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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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