Could charge card late costs drop to $10? CFPB wants to control late costs

Credit card late costs might drop significantly under a proposition anticipated to be launched quickly by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Some experts are anticipating that late costs might be halved to as low as $15, while customer supporters desire the CFPB to minimize late costs to as low as $9 or make them proportional to the financial obligation owed by a cardholder.

CFPB Director Rohit Chopra released a broad attack in 2015 on so-called “junk fees,” and has actually stated he particularly wishes to slash the $12 billion a year in late costs charged by charge card business. The CFPB is anticipated to release a notification of proposed rulemaking this month on late costs however experts anticipate the proposition will be launched in February.

“Our expectation is that the CFPB will lower credit card late fees through the rulemaking process to between $15 to $25, though there are some advocates that want fees to go as low as $9,” stated Ed Groshans, senior policy and research study expert at Compass Point Research & Trading. 

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau might look for to minimize the quantity that banks can charge for charge card late costs. The relocation is the most current effort by the bureau to set brand-new guidelines on what CFPB director Rohit Chopra has actually called “junk fees.”

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Banks and charge card business argue that a decrease in late costs would damage subprime and low-income customers one of the most. Any decrease in late costs would require charge card providers to increase costs on other items, minimize credit, raise interest rate on all cardholders, and possibly even slash benefits and cash-back cards, bank trade groups argue. 

Robert Maddox, a partner at the law office Bradley Arant Boult Cummings, kept in mind that many big banks cut or removed overdraft costs in 2015 under pressure from the CFPB and other regulators. 

“The fact that banks cut overdraft fees opened up just about every fee that is consumer-related as a possible target,” Maddox stated. 

Currently, banks and charge card providers can charge $29 for the very first late charge card payment and $40 for subsequent late payments within 6 billing cycles. Some charge card executives have actually stated they are not stressed over modifications made by the CFPB since almost all late costs presently remain in compliance with the optimal quantities set by the Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure Act, referred to as the CARD Act.

In its approaching proposition, the CFPB is anticipated to re-examine whether Regulation Z — the carrying out policy for the CARD Act and the Truth in Lending Act — must continue to have a safe harbor arrangement that was produced by the Federal Reserve Board in 2010. The safe harbor permits charge card business to raise late costs each year in line with inflation. It likewise enables greater late costs for 2nd offenses to hinder customers from paying late. 

Chopra likewise has actually indicated that modifications are coming. 

“The Fed created a set of immunity provisions that has been going up [due to] inflation every year,”  Chopra stated at a conference in 2015. “We are going to be reviewing whether that number makes sense or whether there needs to be a new framework on it.”

Credit card business are coming off 3 years of unusually low levels of delinquencies and charge-off rates. Even with an economic downturn looming, charge card delinquencies are anticipated to increase to 2.6% at the end of this year, up from 2.1% in 2015, according to a projection launched today from the credit bureau TransUnion. The variety of brand-new charge card opened is at its acme in ten years, TransUnion discovered. 

“As we face headwinds with a potential recession, and more and more people have a significant amount of debt on their credit cards, the consumer advocates have been pushing for late fees to go down,” Maddox stated. 

Banks and charge card providers state that late costs should be set at a level to cover expenses, which a charge charge is not a covert expense however rather is required to minimize the frequency of a customer making late payments. Dan Smith, executive vice president and head of regulative affairs at the Consumer Bankers Association, stated efforts to minimize charge card late costs are misdirected and would damage the very customers with subprime credit history that the bureau is attempting to assist. 

“Late fees are intended to encourage responsible spending behavior and empower consumers to avoid negative impacts on their credit scores that may arise from defaults and delinquencies,” Smith stated. “Eliminating or dramatically reducing the safe harbor threshold will undoubtedly affect consumers’ access to these valued products as credit card issuers would be forced to drastically alter their business models to mitigate the risks associated with increasing instances of missed payments.”

The CFPB is thinking about modifications to the CARD Act consisting of the safe harbor for charge costs. Currently, charge card business cannot enforce a late payment charge unless they have actually figured out that the dollar quantity of the charge represents “a reasonable proportion of the total costs,” sustained by the banks, the CFPB stated in an advance notification of proposed rulemaking in June

Groshans at Compass Point stated he believes the bureau might choose to alter the language of the safe harbor to prefer customers instead of banks. 

“The entire industry has been operating under that safe harbor for over a decade, so don’t think the safe harbor is going away,” Groshans stated. “But the risk is that the CFPB tries to change the basis of the safe harbor.

“Right now the basis [of the safe harbor] is if the charge is affordable … relative to the expense sustained by the banks,” he said. “Do they attempt to alter that to whether the charge is affordable and proportional to the damage to the customer? That’s a really various safe harbor and it looks like that might be possible.” 

Consumer advocates say credit card late fees disproportionately impact subprime borrowers and serve as a back-end profit center for banks and credit card companies. Advocates want late fees tailored to the amount of the debt owed by a cardholder and suggest that the CFPB include a mandatory waiting period of several days before a late fee can be assessed. 

“The late costs enforced by card providers surpass the quantities they sustain in expenses, specifically for accounts with smaller sized balances and for delinquencies of brief time periods,” stated Chi Chi Wu, a personnel lawyer at the National Consumer Law Center. 


A news media journalist always on the go, I've been published in major publications including VICE, The Atlantic, and TIME.

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