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A CONSUMER GUIDE TO CREDIT PROTECTION LAWS
 

INTRODUCTION

 

THE COST OF CREDIT

 

     Shopping Is the First Step

     What Laws Apply?

     The Finance Charge and Annual Percentage Rate (APR)

     A Comparison

     Cost of Open-end Credit

     Leasing Costs and Terms

     Open-end Leases and Balloon Payments

     Costs of Settlement on a House

 

APPLYING FOR CREDIT

 

     Discrimination

     What Law Applies?

     What Creditors Look For

     Information the Creditor Can't Use

     Special Rules

     Discrimination Against Women

     If You're Turned Down

 

CREDIT HISTORIES AND RECORDS

 

     Building Up a Good Record

     What Laws Apply?

     Credit Histories for Women

     Keeping Up Credit Records

 

OTHER ASPECTS OF USING CREDIT

 

     What Laws Apply?

     Billing Errors

     Defective Goods or Services

     Prompt Credit for Payments and Refunds for Credit Balances

     Canceling a Mortgage

     Lost or Stolen Credit Cards

     Unsolicited Cards

 

ELECTRONIC FUND TRANSFERS

 

     Instant Money

     EFT in Operation

     What Law Applies?

     What Record Will I Have of My Transactions?

     How Easily Will I Be Able to Correct Errors?

     What About Loss or Theft?

     What About Solicitations?

     Do I Have to Use EFT?

     Special Questions About Preauthorized Plans

 

COMPLAINING ABOUT CREDIT

 

     Complaining to Federal Enforcement Agencies

     Penalties Under the Laws

 

GLOSSARY

 

SUBJECT INDEX

 

DIRECTORY OF FEDERAL AGENCIES

 

FEDERAL RESERVE BANKS

 

OTHER CONSUMER PAMPHLETS AVAILABLE

 

 

INTRODUCTION

 

 

     The Consumer Credit Protection Act of 1968--which launched

Truth in Lending--was a landmark piece of legislation. For the

first time, creditors had to state the cost of borrowing in a

common language so that you--the customer--could figure out

exactly what the charges would be, compare costs, and shop

around for the credit deal best for you.

 

     Since 1968, credit protections have multiplied rapidly.

The concepts of "fair" and "equal" credit have been written

into laws that outlaw unfair discrimination in credit

transactions; require that consumers be told the reason when

credit is denied; let borrowers find out about their credit

records; and set up a way to settle billing disputes.

 

     Each law was meant to reduce the problems and confusion

surrounding consumer credit which, as it became more widely

used in our economy, also grew more complex. Together, these

laws set a standard for how individuals are to be treated in

their financial dealings.

 

     The laws say, for instance:

 

  -- that you cannot be turned down for a credit card just

     because you're a single woman;

 

  -- that you can limit your risk if a credit card is lost or

     stolen;

 

  -- that you can straighten out errors in your monthly bill

     without damage to your credit rating; and

 

  -- that you won't find credit shut off just because you've

     reached the age of 65.

 

     But, let the buyer be aware! It is important to know your

fights and how to use them. This handbook explains how the

consumer credit laws can help you shop for credit, apply for

it, keep up your credit standing, and--if need be--complain

about an unfair deal. It explains what you should look for when

using credit and what creditors look for before extending it.

It also points out the laws' solutions to discriminatory

practices that have made it difficult for women and minorities

to get credit in the past.

 

 

THE COST OF CREDIT

 

 

 

Shopping is the First Step

 

 

     You get credit by promising to pay in the future for

something you receive in the present.

 

     Credit is a convenience. It lets you charge a meal on your

credit card, pay for an appliance on the installment plan, take

out a loan to buy a house, or pay for schooling or vacations.

With credit, you can enjoy your purchase while you're paying

for it--or you can make a purchase when you're lacking ready

cash.

 

     But there are strings attached to credit too. It usually

costs something. And of course what is borrowed must be paid

back.

 

     If you are thinking of borrowing or opening a credit

account, your first step should be to figure out how much it

will cost you and whether you can afford it. Then you should

shop around for the best terms.

 

 

What Laws Apply?

 

 

     Two laws help you compare costs:

 

     TRUTH IN LENDING requires creditors to give you certain

basic information about the cost of buying on credit or taking

out a loan. These "disclosures" can help you shop around for

the best deal.

 

     CONSUMER LEASING disclosures can help you compare the cost

and terms of one lease with another and with the cost and terms

of buying for cash or on credit.

 

 

The Finance Charge and Annual Percentage Rate (APR)

 

 

     Credit costs vary. By remembering two terms, you can

compare credit prices from different sources. Under Truth in

Lending, the creditor must tell you--in writing and before you

sign any agreement--the finance charge and the annual

percentage rate.

 

     The finance charge is the total dollar amount you pay to

use credit. It includes interest costs, and other costs, such

as service charges and some credit--related insurance premiums.

 

     For example, borrowing $100 for a year might cost you $10

in interest. If there were also a service charge of $1, the

finance charge would be $11.

 

     The annual percentage rate (APR)is the percentage cost (or

relative cost) of credit on a yearly basis. This is your key to

comparing costs, regardless of the amount of credit or how long

you have to repay it:

 

     Again, suppose you borrow $100 for one year and pay a

finance charge of $10. If you can keep the entire $100 for the

whole year and then pay back $110 at the end of the year, you

are paying an APR of 10 percent. But, if you repay the $100 and

finance charge (a total of $110) in twelve equal monthly

installments, you don't really get to use $100 for the whole

year. In fact, you get to use less and less of that $100 each

month. In this case, the $10 charge for credit amounts to an

APR of 18 percent.

 

     All creditors--banks, stores, car dealers, credit card

companies, finance companies-must state the cost of their

credit in terms of the finance charge and the APR. Federal law

does not set interest rates or other credit charges. But it

does require their disclosure so that you can compare credit

costs. The law says these two pieces of information must be

shown to you before you sign a credit contract or before you

use a credit card.

 

 

A Comparison

 

 

     Even when you understand the terms a creditor is offering,

it's easy to underestimate the difference in dollars that

different terms can make. Suppose you're buying a $7,500 car.

You put $1,500 down, and need to borrow $6,000. Compare the

three credit arrangements on the next page.

 

     How do these choices stack up? The answer depends partly

on what you need.

 

     The lowest cost loan is available from Creditor A.

 

     If you were looking for lower monthly payments, you could

get then by paying the loan off over a longer period of time.

However, you would have to pay more in total costs. A loan from

Creditor B--also at a 14 percent APR, but for four years--will

add about $488 to your finance charge.

 

     If that four-year loan were available only from Creditor

C, the APR of 15 percent would add another $145 or so to your

finance charges as compared with Creditor B.

 

     Other terms--such as the size of the down payment--will

also make a difference. Be sure to look at all the terms before

you make your choice.

 

 

 

Cost of Open-end Credit

 

 

     Open-end credit includes bank and department store credit

cards, gasoline company cards, home equity lines, and

checkoverdraft accounts that let you write checks for more than

your actual balance with the bank. Open-end credit can be used

again and again, generally until you reach a certain

prearranged borrowing limit. Truth in Lending requires that

open-end creditors tell you the terms of the credit plan so

that you can shop and compare the costs involved.

 

     When you're shopping for an open-end plan, the APR you're

told represents only the periodic rate that you will be

charged--figured on a yearly basis. (For instance, a creditor

that charges 1% percent interest each month would quote you an

APR of 18 percent.) Annual membership fees, transaction

charges, and points, for example, are listed separately; they

are not included in the APR. Keep this in mind and compare all

the costs involved in the plans, not just the APR.

 

     Creditors must tell you when finance charges begin on your

account, so you know how much time you have to pay your bill

before a finance charge is added. Creditors may give you a

25-day grace period, for example, to pay your balance in full

before making you pay a finance charge.

 

     Creditors also must tell you the method they use to figure

the balance on which you pay a finance charge; the interest

rate they charge is applied to this balance to come up with the

finance charge. Creditors use a number of different methods to

arrive at the balance. Study them carefully; they can

significantly affect your finance charge.

 

     Some creditors, for instance, take the amount you owed at

the beginning of the billing cycle, and subtract any payments

you made during that cycle. Purchases are not counted. This is

called the adjusted balance method.

 

     Another is the previous balance method. Creditors simply

use the amount owed at the beginning of the billing cycle to

come up with the finance charge.

 

     Under one of the most common methods-the average daily

balance method--creditors add your balances for each day in the

billing cycle and then divide that total by the number of days

in the cycle. Payments made during the cycle are subtracted in

arriving at the daily amounts, and, depending on the plan, new

purchases may or may not be included. Under another method--the

two-cycle average daily balance method--creditors use the

average daily balances for two billing cycles to compute your

finance charge. Again, payments will be taken into account in

figuring the balances, but new purchases may or may not be

included.

 

     Be aware that the amount of the finance charge may vary

considerably depending on the method used, even for the same

pattern of purchases and payments.

 

     If you receive a credit card offer or an application, the

creditor must give you information about the APR and other

important terms of the plan at that time. Likewise, with a home

equity plan, information must be given to you with an

application.

 

     Truth in Lending does not set the rates or tell the

creditor how to calculate finance charges--it only requires

that the creditor tell you the method that it uses. You should

ask for an explanation of any terms you don't understand.

 

 

Leasing Costs and Terms

 

 

     Leasing gives you temporary use of property in return for

periodic payments. It has become a popular alternative to

buying--under certain circumstances. For instance, you might

consider leasing furniture for an apartment you'll use only for

a year. The Consumer Leasing law requires leasing companies to

give you the facts about the costs and terms of their

contracts, to help you decide whether leasing is a good idea.

 

     The law applies to personal property leased to you for

more than four months for personal, family, or household use.

It covers, for example, long-term rentals of cars, furniture,

and appliances, but not daily car rentals or leases for

apartments.

 

     Before you agree to a lease, the leasing company must give

you a written statement of costs, including the amount of any

security deposit, the amount of your monthly payments, and the

amount you must pay for licensing, registration, taxes, and

maintenance.

 

     The company must also give you a written statement about

terms, including any insurance you need, any guarantees,

information about who is responsible for servicing the

property, any standards for its wear and tear, and whether or

not you have an option to buy the property.

 

 

Open-end Leases and Balloon Payments

 

 

     Your costs will depend on whether you choose an open-end

lease or a closed-end lease. Open-end leases usually mean lower

monthly payments than closed-end leases, but you may owe a

large extra payment--often called a balloon payment--based on

the value of the property when you return it.

 

     Suppose you lease a car under a three-year open-end lease.

The leasing company estimates the car will be worth $4,000

after three years of normal use. If you bring back the car in a

condition that makes it worth only $3,500, you may owe a

balloon payment of $500.

 

     The leasing company must tell you whether you may owe a

balloon payment and how it will be calculated. You should also

know that:

 

  -- you have the right to an independent appraisal of the

     property's worth at the end of the lease. You must pay the

     appraiser's fee, however.

 

  -- a balloon payment is usually limited to no more than three

     times the average monthly payment. If your monthly payment

     is $ 200, your balloon payment wouldn't be more than

     $600--unless, for example, the property has received more

     than average wear and tear (for instance, if you drove a

     car more than average mileage).

 

     Closed-end leases usually have higher monthly payment than

open-end leases, but there is no balloon payment at the end of

the lease.

 

 

Costs of Settlement on a House

 

 

     A house is probably the single largest credit purchase for

most consumers--and one of the most complicated. The Real

Estate Settlement Procedures Act, like Truth in Lending, is a

disclosure law. The Act, administered by the Department of

Housing and Urban Development, requires the lender to give you,

in advance, certain information about the costs you will pay

when you close the loan.

 

     This event is called settlement or closing, and the law

helps you shop for lower settlement costs. To find out more

about it, write to:

 

Deputy Assistant Secretary for Housing Attention:

RESPA Enforcement

U.S. Department of Housing and Urban

Development 451 Seventh Street, S.W. Room 5241

Washington, D.C. 20410

 

Should you need to phone:

(202) 708-4560

 

     A Federal Reserve pamphlet, entitled "A Consumer's Guide

to Mortgage Closing Costs," also contains useful information

for consumers.

 

 

APPLYING FOR CREDIT

 

 

 

Discrimination

 

 

     When you're ready to apply for credit, you should know

what creditors think is important in deciding whether you're

creditworthy. You should also know what they cannot legally

consider in their decisions.

 

 

What Law Applies?

 

 

     EQUAL CREDIT OPPORTUNITY ACT requires that all credit

applicants be considered on the basis of their actual

qualifications for credit and not be turned away because of

certain personal characteristics.

 

 

What Creditors Look For

 

 

     The Three C's. Creditors look for an ability to repay debt

and a willingness to do so--and sometimes for a little extra

security to protect their loans. They speak of the three C's of

credit-capacity, character, and collateral.

 

     Capacity. Can you repay the debt? Creditors ask for

employment information: your occupation, how long you've

worked, and how much you earn. They also want to know your

expenses: how many dependents you have, whether you pay alimony

or child support, and the amount of your other obligations.

 

     Character. Will you repay the debt? Creditors will look at

your credit history (see chapter on Credit Histories and

Records): how much you owe, how often you borrow, whether you

pay bills on time, and whether you live within your means. They

also look for signs of stability: how long you've lived at your

present address, whether you own or rent, and length of your

present employment.

 

     Collateral. Is the creditor fully protected if you fail to

repay? Creditors want to know what you may have that could be

used to back up or secure your loan, and what sources you have

for repaying debt other than income, such as savings,

investments, or property.

 

     Creditors use different combinations of these facts in

reaching their decisions. Some set unusually high standards and

other simply do not make certain kinds of loans. Creditors also

use different kinds of rating systems. Some rely strictly on

their own instinct and experience. Others use a

"credit-scoring" or statistical system to predict whether

you're a good credit risk. They assign a certain number of

points to each of the various characteristics that have proved

to be reliable signs that a borrower will repay. Then, they

rate you on this scale.

 

     And so, different creditors may reach different

conclusions based on the same set of facts. One may find you an

acceptable risk, while another may deny you a loan.

 

 

Information the Creditor Can't Use

 

 

     The Equal Credit Opportunity Act does not guarantee that

you will get credit. You must still pass the creditor's tests

of creditworthiness. But the creditor must apply these tests

fairly, impartially, and without discriminating against you on

any of the following grounds: age, gender, marital status,

race, color, religion, national origin, because you receive

public income such as veterans benefits, welfare or Social

Security, or because you exercise your rights under Federal

credit laws such as filing a billing error notice with a

creditor. This means that a creditor may not use any of those

grounds as a reason to:

 

  -- discourage you from applying for a loan;

 

  -- refuse you a loan if you quality; or

 

  -- lend you money on terms different from those granted

     another person with similar income, expenses, credit

     history, and collateral.

 

 

Special Rules

 

 

     Age. In the past, many older persons have complained about

being denied credit just because they were over a certain age.

Or when they retired, they often found their credit suddenly

cut off or reduced. So the law is very specific about how a

person's age may be used in credit decisions.

 

     A creditor may ask your age, but if you're old enough to

sign a binding contract (usually 18 or 21 years old depending

on state law), a creditor may not:

 

  -- turn you down or offer you less credit just because of

     your age;

 

  -- ignore your retirement income in rating your application;

 

  -- close your credit account or require you to reapply for it

     just because you reach a certain age or retire; or

 

  -- deny you credit or close your account because credit life

     insurance or other credit-related insurance is not

     available to persons your age.

 

     Creditors may "score" your age in a creditscoring system,

but:

 

  -- if you are 62 or older you must be given at least as many

     points for age as any person under 62.

 

     Because individuals' financial situations can change at

different ages, the law lets creditors consider certain

information related to age--such as how long until you retire

or how long your income will continue. An older applicant might

not qualify for a large loan with a 5 percent down payment on a

risky venture, but might qualify for a smaller loan--with a

bigger down payment--secured by good collateral. Remember that

while declining income may be a handicap if you are older, you

can usually offer a solid credit history to your advantage. The

creditor has to look at all the facts and apply the usual

standards of creditworthiness to your particular situation.

 

     Public Assistance. You may not be denied credit just

because you receive Social Security or public assistance (such

as Aid to Families with Dependent Children). But--as is the

case with age--certain information related to this source of

income could clearly affect creditworthiness. So, a creditor

may consider such things as:

 

  -- how old your dependents are (because you may lose benefits

     when they reach a certain age); or

 

  -- whether you will continue to meet the residency

     requirements for receiving benefits.

 

     This information helps the creditor determine the

likelihood that your public assistance income will continue.

 

     Housing Loans. The Equal Credit Opportunity Act covers

your application for a mortgage or home improvement loan. It

bans discrimination because of such characteristics as your

race, color, gender, or because of the race or national origin

of the people in the neighborhood where you live or want to buy

your home. Nor may creditors use any appraisal of the value of

the property that considers the race of the people in the

neighborhood.

 

     In addition, you are entitled to receive a copy of an

appraisal report that you paid for in connection with an

application for credit, if a you make a written request for the

report.

 

 

Discrimination Against Women

 

 

     Both men and women are protected from discrimination based

on gender or marital status. But many of the law's provisions

were designed to stop particular abuses that generally made if

difficult for women to get credit. For example, the idea that

single women ignore their debts when they marry, or that a

woman's income "doesn't count" because she'll leave work to

have children, now is unlawful in credit transactions.

 

     The general rule is that you may not be denied credit just

because you are a woman, or just because you are married,

single, widowed, divorced, or separated. Here are some

important protections:

 

     Gender and Marital Status. Usually, creditors may not ask

your gender on an application form (one exception is on a loan

to buy or build a home).

 

     You do not have to use Miss, Mrs., or Ms. with your name

on a credit application. But, in some cases, a creditor may ask

whether you are married, unmarried, or separated (unmarried

includes single, divorced, and widowed).

 

     Child-bearing Plans. Creditors may not ask about your

birth control practices or whether you plan to have children,

and they may not assume anything about those plans.

 

     Income and Alimony. The creditor must count all of your

income, even income from part-time employment.

 

     Child support and alimony payments are a primary source of

income for many women. You don't have to disclose these kinds

of income, but if you do creditors must count them.

 

     Telephones. Creditors may not consider whether you have a

telephone listing in your name because this would discriminate

against many married women. (You may be asked if there's a

telephone in your home.)

 

     A creditor may consider whether income is steady and

reliable, so be prepared to show that you can count on

uninterrupted income--particularly if the source is alimony

payments or part-time wages.

 

     Your Own Accounts. Many married women used to be turned

down when they asked for credit in their own name. Or, a

husband had to cosign an account--agree to pay if the wife

didn't--even when a woman's own income could easily repay the

loan. Single women couldn't get loans because they were thought

to be somehow less reliable than other applicants. You now have

a fight to your own credit, based on your own credit records

and earnings. Your own credit means a separate account or loan

in your own name--not a joint account with your husband or a

duplicate card on his account. Here are the rules:

 

  -- Creditors may not refuse to open an account just because

     of your gender or marital status.

 

  -- You can choose to use your first name and maiden name

     (Mary Smith); your first name and husband's last name

     (Mary Jones); or a combined last name (Mary Smith-Jones).

 

  -- If you're creditworthy, a creditor may not ask your

     husband to cosign your account, with certain exceptions

     when property rights are involved.

 

  -- Creditors may not ask for information about your husband

     or ex-husband when you apply for your own credit based on

     your own income--unless that income is alimony, child

     support, or separate maintenance payments from your spouse

     or former spouse.

 

     This last rule, of course, does not apply if your husband

is going to use your account or be responsible for paying your

debts on the account, or if you live in a community property

state. (Community property states are: Arizona, California,

Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington and

Wisconsin.)

 

     Change in Marital Status. Married women have sometimes

faced severe hardships when cut off from credit after their

husbands died. Single women have had accounts closed when they

married, and married women have had accounts closed after a

divorce. The law says that creditors may not make you reapply

for credit just because you marry or become widowed or

divorced. Nor may they close your account or change the terms

of your account on these grounds. There must be some sign that

your creditworthiness has changed. For example, creditors may

ask you to reapply if you relied on your ex-husband's income to

get credit in the first place.

 

     Setting up your own account protects you by giving you

your own history of how you handle debt, to rely on if your

financial situation changes because you are widowed or

divorced. If you're getting married and plan to take your

husband's surname, write to your creditors and tell them if you

want to keep a separate account.

 

 

If You're Turned Down

 

 

     Remember, your gender or race may not be used to

discourage you from applying for a loan. And creditors may not

hold up or otherwise delay your application on those grounds.

Under the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, you must be notified

within 30 days after your application has been completed

whether your loan has been approved or not. If credit is

denied, this notice must be in writing and it must explain the

specific reasons why you were denied credit or tell you of your

right to ask for an explanation. You have the same rights if an

account you have had is closed.

 

     If you are denied credit, be sure to find out why.

Remember, you may have to ask the creditors for this

explanation. It may be that the creditor thinks you have

requested more money than you can repay on your income. It may

be that you have not been employed or lived long enough in the

community. You can discuss terms with the creditor and ways to

improve your creditworthiness. The next chapter explains how to

improve your ability to get credit.

 

     If you think you have been discriminated against, cite the

law to the lender. If the lender still says no without a

satisfactory explanation, you may contact a Federal enforcement

agency for assistance or bring legal action as described in the

last chapter of this handbook.

 

 

CREDIT HISTORIES AND RECORDS

 

 

 

Building Up a Good Record

 

 

     On your first attempt to get credit, you may face a common

frustration: sometimes it seems you have to already have credit

to get credit. Some creditors will look only at your salary and

job and the other financial information you put on your

application. But most also want to know about your track record

in handling credit--how reliably you've repaid past debts. They

turn to the records kept by credit bureaus or credit reporting

agencies whose business is to collect and store information

about borrowers that is routinely supplied by many lenders.

These records include the amount of credit you have received

and how faithfully you've paid it back.

 

     Here are several ways you can begin to build up a good

credit history:

 

  -- Open a checking account or a savings account, or both.

     These do not begin your credit file, but may be checked as

     evidence that you have money and know how to manage it.

     Canceled checks can be used to show you pay utility bills

     or rent regularly, a sign of reliability.

 

  -- Apply for a department store credit card. Repaying credit

     card bills on time is a plus in credit histories.

 

  -- Ask whether you may deposit funds with a financial

     institution to serve as collateral for a credit card; some

     institutions will issue a credit card with a credit limit

     usually no greater than the amount on deposit.

 

  -- If you're new in town, write for a summary of any credit

     record kept by a credit bureau in your former town. (Ask

     the bank or department store in your old hometown for the

     name of the agency it reports to.)

 

  -- If you don't qualify on the basis of your own credit

     standing, offer to have someone cosign your application.

 

  -- If you're turned down, find out why and try to clear up

     any misunderstandings.

 

 

What Laws Apply?

 

 

     The following laws can help you start your credit history

and keep your record accurate:

 

     THE EQUAL CREDIT OPPORTUNITY ACT gives women a way to

start their own credit history and identity.

 

     THE FAIR CREDIT REPORTING ACT sets up a procedure for

correcting mistakes on your credit record.

 

 

Credit Histories for Women

 

 

     Under the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, reports to credit

bureaus must be made in the names of both husband and wife if

both use an account or are responsible for repaying the debt.

Some women who are divorced or widowed might not have separate

credit histories because in the past credit accounts were

listed in their husband's name only. But they can still benefit

from this record. Under the Equal Credit Opportunity Act,

creditors must consider the credit history of accounts women

have held jointly with their husbands. Creditors must also look

at the record of any account held only in the husband's name if

a woman can show it also reflects her own creditworthiness. If

the record is unfavorable--if an ex-husband was a bad credit

risk--she can try to show that the record does not reflect her

own reputation. Remember that a wife may also open her own

account to be sure of starting her own credit history.

 

     Here's an example:

 

     Mary Jones, when married to John Jones, always paid their

credit card bills on time and from their joint checking

account. But the card was issued in John's name, and the credit

bureau kept all records in John's name. Now Mary is a widow and

wants to take out a new card, but she's told she has no credit

history. To benefit from the good credit record already on the

books in John's name, Mary should point out that she handled

all accounts properly when she was married and that bills were

paid by checks from their joint checking account.

 

 

Keeping Up Credit Records

 

 

     Mistakes on your credit record--sometimes mistaken

identities--can cloud your credit future. Your credit rating is

important, so be sure credit bureau records are complete and

accurate.

 

     The Fair Credit Reporting Act says that you must be told

what's in your credit file and have any errors corrected.

 

     Negative Information. If a lender refuses you credit

because of unfavorable information in your credit report, you

have a right to the name and address of the agency that keeps

your report. Then, you may either request information from the

credit bureau by mail or in person. You will not get an exact

copy of the file, but you will at least learn what's in the

report. The law also says that the credit bureau must help you

interpret the data--because it's raw data that takes experience

to analyze. If you're questioning a credit refusal made within

the past 30 days, the bureau is not allowed to charge a fee for

giving you information.

 

     Any error that you find must be investigated by the credit

bureau with the creditor who supplied the data. The bureau will

remove from your credit file any errors the creditor admits are

there. If you disagree with the findings, you can file a short

statement in your record giving your side of the story. Future

reports to creditors must include this statement or a summary

of it.

 

     Old Information. Sometimes credit information is too old

to give a good picture of your financial reputation. There is a

limit on how long certain kinds of information may be kept in

your file:

 

  -- Bankruptcies must be taken off your credit history after

     10 years.

 

  -- Suits and judgments, tax liens, arrest records, and most

     other kinds of unfavorable information must be dropped

     after 7 years.

 

     Your credit record may not be given to anyone who does not

have a legitimate business need for it. Stores to which you are

applying for credit or prospective employers may examine your

record; curious neighbors may not.

 

     Billing Mistakes. In the next chapter, you will find the

steps to take if there's an error on your bill. By following

these steps, you can protect your credit rating.

 

 

OTHER ASPECTS OF USING CREDIT

 

 

 

     The best way to keep up your credit standing is to repay

all debts on time. But there may be complications. To protect

your credit rating, you should learn how to correct mistakes

and misunderstandings that can tangle up your credit accounts.

 

     When there's a snag, first try to deal directly with the

creditor. The credit laws can help you settle your complaints

without a hassle.

 

 

What Laws Apply?

 

 

     FAIR CREDIT BILLING ACT sets up procedures requiring

creditors to promptly correct billing mistakes; allowing you to

withhold payments on defective goods; and requiring creditors

to promptly credit your payments.

 

     IN LENDING gives you three days to change your mind about

certain credit transactions that use your home as collateral;

it also limits your risk on lost or stolen credit cards.

 

 

Billing Errors

 

 

     Month after month John Jones was billed for a lawn mower

he never ordered and never got. Finally, he tore up his bill

and mailed back the pieces--just to try to explain things to a

person instead of a computer.

 

     There's a more effective, easier way to straighten out

these errors. The Fair Credit Billing Act requires creditors to

correct errors promptly and without damage to your credit

rating.

 

     A Case of Error. The law defines a billing error as any

charge:

 

  -- for something you didn't buy or for a purchase made by

     someone not authorized to use your account;

 

  -- that is not properly identified on your bill or is for an

     amount different from the actual purchase price or was

     entered on a date different from the purchase date; or

 

  -- for something that you did not accept on delivery or that

     was not delivered according to agreement.

 

     Billing errors also include:

 

  -- errors in arithmetic;

 

  -- failure to show a payment or other credit to your account;

 

  -- failure to mail the bill to your current address, if you

     told the creditor about an address change at least 20 days

     before the end of the billing period; or

 

  -- a questionable item, or an item for which you need more

     information.

 

     In Case of Error: If you think your bill is wrong, or want

more information about it, follow these steps:

 

     1. Notify the creditor in writing within 60 days after the

first bill was mailed that showed the error. Be sure to write

to the address the creditor lists for billing inquiries and to

tell the creditor:

 

  -- your name and account number;

 

  -- that you believe the bill contains an error and why you

     believe it is wrong; and

 

  -- the date and suspected amount of the error or the item you

     want explained.

 

     2. Pay all parts of the bill that are not in dispute. But,

while waiting for an answer, you do not have to pay the amount

in question (the "disputed amount") or any minimum payments or

finance charges that apply to it.

 

     The creditor must acknowledge your letter within 30 days,

unless the problem can be resolved within that time. Within two

billing periods--but in no case longer than 90 days--either

your account must be corrected or you must be told why the

creditor believes the bill is correct.

 

     If the creditor made a mistake, you do not pay any finance

charges on the disputed amount. Your account must be corrected,

and you must be sent an explanation of any amount you still

owe.

 

     If no error is found, the creditor must send you an

explanation of the reasons for that finding and promptly send a

statement of what you owe, which may include any finance

charges that have accumulated and any minimum payments you

missed while you were questioning the bill. You then have the

time usually given on your type of account to pay any balance,

but not less that 10 days.

 

     3. If you still are not satisfied, you should notify the

creditor in writing within the time allowed to pay your bill.

 

     Maintaining Your Credit Rating. A creditor may not

threaten your credit rating while you're resolving a billing

dispute.

 

     Once you have written about a possible error, a creditor

must not give out information to other creditors or credit

bureaus that would hurt your credit reputation. And, until your

complaint is answered, the creditor also may not take any

action to collect the disputed amount.

 

     After the creditor has explained the bill, if you do not

pay in the time allowed, you may be reported as delinquent on

the amount in dispute and the creditor may take action to

collect. Even so, you can still disagree in writing. Then the

creditor must report that you have challenged your bill and

give you the name and address of each person who has received

information about your account. When the matter is settled, the

creditor must report the outcome to each person who has

received information. Remember that you may also place your own

side of the story in your credit record.

 

 

Defective Goods or Services

 

 

     Your new sofa arrives with only three legs. You try to

return it; no luck. You ask the merchant to repair or replace

it; still no luck. The Fair Credit Billing Act allows you to

withhold payment on any damaged or poor quality goods or

services purchased with a credit card, as long as you have made

a real attempt to solve the problem with the merchant.

 

     This right may be limited if the card was a bank or travel

and entertainment card or any card not issued by the store

where you made your purchase. In such cases, the sale:

 

  -- must have been for more than $50; and

 

  -- must have taken place in your home state or within 100

     miles of your home address.

 

 

Prompt Credit for Payments and Refunds for Credit Balances

 

 

     Some creditors will not charge a finance charge if you pay

your account within a certain period of time. In this case, it

is especially important that you get your bills, and get credit

for paying them, promptly. Check your statements to make sure

your creditor follows these rules:

 

     Billing. Look at the date on the postmark. If your account

is one on which no finance or other charge is added before a

certain due date, then creditors must mail their statements at

least 14 days before payment is due.

 

     Crediting. Look at the payment date entered on the

statement. Creditors must credit payments on the day they

arrive, as long as you pay according to payment instructions.

This means, for example, sending your payment to the address

listed on the bill.

 

     Credit Balances. If a credit balance results on your

account (for example, because you pay more than the amount you

owe, or you return a purchase and the purchase price is

credited to your account), the creditor must make a refund to

you. The refund must be made within seven business days after

your written request, or automatically if the credit balance is

still in existence after six months.

 

 

Canceling a Mortgage

 

 

     Truth in Lending gives you a chance to change your mind on

one important kind of transaction--when you use your home as

security for a credit transaction. For example, when you are

financing a major repair or remodeling and use your home as

security, you have three business days, usually after you sign

a contract, to think about the transaction and to cancel it if

you wish. The creditor must give you written notice of your

right to cancel, and, if you decide to cancel, you must notify

the creditor in writing within the three-day period. The

creditor must then return all fees paid and cancel the security

interest in your home. No contractor may start work on your

home, and no lender may pay you or the contractor until the

three days are up. If you must have the credit immediately to

meet a financial emergency, you may give up your right to

cancel by providing a written explanation of the circumstances.

 

     The right to cancel (or right of rescission) was provided

to protect you against hasty decisions--or decisions made under

pressure--that might put your home at risk if you are unable to

repay the loan. The law does not apply to a mortgage to finance

the purchase of your home; for that, you commit yourself as

soon as you sign the mortgage contract. And, if you use your

home to secure an open-end credit line--a home equity line, for

instance--you have the right the cancel when you open the

account or when your security interest or credit limit is

increased. (In the case of an increase, only the increase would

be canceled.)

 

 

Lost or Stolen Credit Cards

 

 

     If your wallet is stolen, your greatest cost may be

inconvenience, because your liability on lost or stolen cards

is limited under Truth in Lending.

 

     You do not have to pay for any unauthorized charges made

after you notify the card company of loss or theft of your

card. So keep a list of your credit card numbers and notify

card issuers immediately if your card is lost or stolen. The

most you will have to pay for unauthorized charges is $50 on

each card--even if someone runs up several hundred dollars worth

of charges before you report a card missing.

 

 

Unsolicited Cards

 

 

     It is illegal for card issuers to send you a credit card

unless you ask for or agree to receive one. However, a card

issuer may send, without your request, a new card to replace an

expiring one.

 

 

ELECTRONIC FUND TRANSFERS

 

 

 

Instant Money

 

 

     On his way home last Friday night, John Jones realized he

had no cash for the weekend. The bank was closed, but John had

his bank debit card and the code to use it. He inserted the

card into an automated teller machine outside the front door of

the bank; then, using a number keyboard, he entered his code

and pressed the buttons for a withdrawal of $50. John's cash

was dispensed automatically from the machine, and his bank

account was electronically debited for the $50 cash withdrawal.

 

     John's debit card is just one way to use electronic fund

transfer (EFT) systems that allow payment between parties by

substituting an electronic signal for cash or checks.

 

     Are we heading for a checkless society? Probably not. But

a dent in the number of paper checks in the country's banking

system--or a reduction in the rate at which that number has

been growing--is clearly one advantage to electronic banking.

 

     Today, the cost of moving checks through the banking

system is estimated to be approximately 80 cents per check,

including the costs of paper, printing, and mailing. Moreover,

checks--except your own check presented at your own bank--take

time to cash: time for delivery, endorsement, presentation to

another person's bank, and winding through various stations in

the check clearing system. Technology now can lower the costs

of the payment mechanism and make it more efficient and

convenient by reducing paperwork.

 

 

EFT in Operation

 

 

     The national payment mechanism moves money between

accounts in a fast, paperless way. These are some examples of

EFT systems in operation:

 

     Teller Machines (ATMs). Consumers can do their banking

without the assistance of a teller, as john Jones did to get

cash, or to make deposits, pay bills, or transfer funds from

one account to another electronically. These machines are used

with a debit or EFT card and a code, which is often called a

personal identification number or "PIN."

 

     (POS) Transactions. Some EFT cards can be used when

shopping to allow the transfer of funds from the consumer's

account to the merchant's. To pay for a purchase, the consumer

presents an EFT card instead of a check or cash. Money is taken

out of the consumer's account and put into the merchant's

account electronically.

 

     Preauthorized Transfers. This is a method of automatically

depositing to or withdrawing funds from an individual's

account, when the account holder authorizes the bank or a third

party (such as an employer) to do so. For example, consumers

can authorize direct electronic deposit of wages, Social

Security or dividend payments to their accounts. Or, they can

authorize financial institutions to make regular, ongoing

payments of insurance, mortgage, utility or other bills.

 

     Telephone Transfers. Consumers can transfer funds from one

account to another--from savings to checking, for example--or

can order payment of specific bills by phone.

 

 

What Law Applies?

 

 

     THE ELECTRONIC FUND TRANSFER ACT gives consumers answers

to several basic questions about using EFT services.

 

     A check is a piece of paper with information that

authorizes a bank to withdraw a certain amount of money from

one person's account and pay that amount to another person.

Most consumer questions center on the fact that EFT systems

transmit the information without the paper. Thus, they ask:

 

  -- What record--what evidence--will I have of my

     transactions?

 

  -- How easily will I be able to correct errors?

 

  -- What if someone steals money from my account?

 

  -- What about solicitations?

 

  -- Do I have to use EFT services?

 

     Here are the answers the EFT Act gives to consumer

questions about these systems.

 

 

What Record Will I Have of My Transactions?

 

 

     A canceled check is permanent proof that a payment has

been made. Is proof of payment available with EFT services?

 

     The answer is yes. If you use an ATM to withdraw money or

make deposits, or a point-of-sale terminal to pay for a

purchase, you can get a written receipt--much like the sales

receipt you get with a cash purchase--showing the amount of the

transfer, the date it was made, and other information. This

receipt is your record of transfers initiated at an electronic

terminal.

 

     Your periodic bank statement must also show all electronic

transfers to and from your account, including those made with

debit cards, by a preauthorized arrangement, or under a

telephone transfer plan. It will also name the party to whom

payment has been made and show any fees for EFT services (or

the total amount charged for account maintenance) and your

opening and closing balances.

 

     Your monthly statement is proof of payment to another

person, your record for tax or other purposes, and your way of

checking and reconciling EFT transactions with your bank

balance.

 

 

How Easily Will I Be Able to Correct Errors?

 

 

     The way to report errors is somewhat different with EFT

services than it is with credit cards (see page 22 for

correcting credit billing errors). But, as with credit cards,

financial institutions must investigate and correct promptly

any EFT errors you report.

 

     If you believe there has been an error in an electronic

fund transfer relating to your account:

 

     1. Write or call your financial institution immediately if

possible, but no later than 60 days from the date the first

statement that you think shows an error was mailed to you. Give

your name and account number and explain why you believe there

is an error, what kind of error, and the dollar amount and date

in question. If you call, you may be asked to send this

information in writing within 10 business days.

 

     2. The financial institution must promptly investigate an

error and resolve it within 45 days. However, if the financial

institution takes longer than 10 business days to complete its

investigation, generally it must put back into your account the

amount in question while it finishes the investigation. (The

time periods are longer for POS debit card transactions and for

any EFT transaction initiated outside the United States.) In

the meantime, you will have full use of the funds in question.

 

     3. The financial institution must notify you of the

results of its investigation. If there was an error, the

institution must correct it promptly--for example, by making a

recredit final.

 

     If it finds no error, the financial institution must

explain in writing why it believes no error occurred and let

you know that it has deducted any amount recredited during the

investigation. You may ask for copies of documents relied on in

the investigation.

 

 

What About Loss or Theft?

 

 

     It's important to be aware of the potential risk in using

an EFT card, which differs from the risk on a credit card.

 

     On lost or stolen credit cards, your loss is limited to

$50 per card (see page 25). On an EFT card, your liability for

an unauthorized withdrawal can vary:

 

  -- Your loss is limited to $50 if you notify the financial

     institution within two business days after learning of

     loss or theft of your card or code.

 

  -- But, you could lose as much as $500 if you do not tell the

     card issuer within two business days after learning of the

     loss or theft.

 

  -- If you do not report an unauthorized transfer that appears

     on your statement within 60 days after the statement is

     mailed to you, you risk unlimited loss on transfers made

     after the 60-day period. That means you could lose all the

     money in your account plus your maximum overdraft line of

     credit.

 

Example:

 

     On Monday, john's debit card and secret code were stolen.

On Tuesday, the thief withdrew $250, all the money John had in

his checking account. Five days later, the thief withdrew

another $500, triggering John's overdraft line of credit. John

did not realize his card was stolen until he received a

statement from the bank, showing withdrawals of $750 he did

not make. He called the bank right away. John's liability is

$50.

 

     Now suppose that when john got his bank statement he

didn't look at it and didn't call the bank. Seventy days after

the statement was mailed to john, the thief withdrew another

$1,000, reaching the limit on John's line of credit. In this

case, John would be liable for $1,050 ($50 for transfers before

the end of the 60 days; $1,000 for transfers made more than 60

days after the statement was mailed).

 

 

What About Solicitations?

 

 

     A financial institution may send you an EFT card that is

VALID FOR USE only if you ask for one, or to replace or renew

an expiring card. The financial institution must also give you

the following information about your rights and

responsibilities:

 

  -- A notice of your liability in case the card is lost or

     stolen;

 

  -- A telephone number for reporting loss or theft of the card

     or an unauthorized transfer;

 

  -- A description of its error resolution procedures;

 

  -- The kinds of electronic fund transfers you may make and

     any limits on the frequency or dollar amounts of such

     transfers;

 

  -- Any charge by the institution for using EFT services;

 

  -- Your right to receive records of electronic fund

     transfers;

 

  -- How to stop payment of a preauthorized transfer;

 

  -- The financial institution's liability to you for any

     failure to make or to stop transfers; and

 

  -- The conditions under which a financial institution will

     give information to third parties about your account.

 

     Generally, you must also get advance notice of any change

in the account that would increase your costs or liability, or

limit transfers.

 

     A financial institution may send you a card you did not

request only if the card is NOT VALID FOR USE. An "unsolicited"

card can be validated only at your request and only after the

institution makes sure that you are the person whose name is on

the card. It must also be sent with instructions on how to

dispose of an unwanted card.

 

 

Do I Have to Use EFT?

 

 

     The EFT Act forbids a creditor from requiring you to repay

a loan or other credit by EFT, except in the case of overdraft

checking plans. And, although your employer or a government

agency can require you to receive your salary or a government

benefit by electronic transfer, you have the right to choose

the financial institution that will receive your funds.

 

 

Special Questions About Preauthorized Plans

 

 

     Q. How will I know a preauthorized credit has been made?

 

     A. There are various ways you may be notified. Notice may

be given by your employer (or whoever is sending the funds)

that the deposit has been sent to your financial institution.

Otherwise, a financial institution may provide notice when it

has received the credit or will send you a notice only when it

has not received the funds. Financial institutions also have

the option of giving you a telephone number you can call to

check on a preauthorized credit.

 

     Q. How do I stop a preauthorized payment?

 

     A. You may stop any preauthorized payment by calling or

writing the financial institution, so that your order is

received at least three business days before the payment date.

Written confirmation of a telephone notice to stop payment may

be required.

 

     Q. If the payments I preauthorize vary in amount from

month to month, how will I know how much will be transferred

out of my account?

 

     A. You have the right to be notified of all varying

payments at least 10 days in advance.

 

     Or, you may choose to specify a range of amounts and to be

told only when a transfer falls outside that range. You may

also choose to be told only when a transfer differs by a

certain amount from the previous payment to the same company.

 

     Q. Do the EFT Act protections apply to all preauthorized

plans?

 

     A. No. They do not apply to automatic transfers from your

account to the institution that holds your account or vice

versa. For example, they do not apply to automatic payments

made on a mortgage held by the financial institution where you

have your EFT account. The EFT Act also does not apply to

automatic transfers among your accounts at one financial

institution.

 

 

COMPLAINING ABOUT CREDIT

 

 

 

Complaining to Federal Enforcement Agencies

 

 

     First try to solve your problem directly with a creditor.

Only if that fails should you bring more formal complaint

procedures. Here's the way to file a complaint with the Federal

agencies responsible for carrying out consumer credit

protection laws.

 

     Complaints About Banks. If you have a complaint about a

bank in connection with any of the Federal credit laws--or if

you think any part of your business with a bank has been

handled in an unfair or deceptive way--you may get advice and

help from the Federal Reserve. The practice you complain about

does not have to be covered by Federal law. Furthermore, you

don't have to be a customer of the bank to file a complaint.

 

     You should submit your complaint--in writing whenever

possible--to the Division of Consumer and Community Affairs,

Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, Washington,

D.C. 20551, or to the Reserve Bank nearest you, as listed on

page 43 of this handbook. Be sure to describe the bank practice

you are complaining about and give the name and address of the

bank involved.

 

     The Federal Reserve will write back within 15

days--sometimes with an answer, sometimes telling you that more

time is needed to handle your complaint. The additional time is

required when complex issues are involved or when the complaint

will be investigated by a Federal Reserve Bank. When this is

the case, the Federal Reserve will try to keep you informed

about the progress being made.

 

     The Board supervises only state--chartered banks that are

members of the Federal Reserve System. It will refer complaints

about other institutions to the appropriate Federal regulatory

agency and let you know where your complaint has been referred.

Or you may use the listing on page 42 of this booklet to write

directly to the appropriate agency.

 

     Complaints About Other Institutions. On page 42 of this

booklet, you will also find the names of the regulatory

agencies for other financial institutions and for businesses

other than banks. Many of these agencies do not handle

individual complaints; however, they will use information about

your credit experiences to help enforce the credit laws.

 

 

Penalties Under the Laws

 

 

     You may also take legal action against a creditor. If you

decide to bring a lawsuit, here are the penalties a creditor

must pay if you win.

 

     Truth in Lending and Consumer Leasing Acts. If any

creditor fails to disclose information required under these

Acts, or gives inaccurate information, or does not comply with

the rules about credit cards or the right to cancel certain

home--secured loans, you as an individual may sue for actual

damages--any money loss you suffer. In addition, you can sue

for twice the finance charge in the case of certain credit

disclosures, or, if a lease is concerned, 25 percent of total

monthly payments. In either case, the least the court may award

you if you win is $100, and the most is $1,000. In any lawsuit

that you win, you are entitled to reimbursement for court costs

and attorney's fees.

 

     Class action suits are also permitted. A class action suit

is one filed on behalf of a group of people with similar

claims.

 

     Equal Credit Opportunity Act. If you think you can prove

that a creditor has discriminated against you for any reason

prohibited by the Act, you as an individual may sue for actual

damages plus punitive damages--that is, damages for the fact

that the law has been violated--of up to $10,000. In a

successful lawsuit, the court will award you court costs and a

reasonable amount for attorney's fees. Class action suits are

also permitted.

 

     Fair Credit Billing Act. A creditor who breaks the rules

for the correction of billing errors automatically loses the

amount owed on the item in question and any finance charges on

it, up to a combined total of $50--even if the bill was correct.

You as an individual may also sue for actual damages plus twice

the amount of any finance charges, but in any case not less

than $100 nor more than $1,000. You are also entitled to court

costs and attorney's fees in a successful lawsuit. Class action

suits are also permitted.

 

     Fair Credit Reporting Act. You may sue any credit

reporting agency or creditor for breaking the rules about who

may see your credit records or for not correcting errors in

your file. Again, you are entitled to actual damages, p]us

punitive damages that the court may allow if the violation is

proved to have been intentional. In any successful lawsuit, you

will also be awarded court costs and attorney's fees. A person

who obtains a credit report without proper authorization--or an

employee of a credit reporting agency who gives a credit report

to unauthorized persons--may be fined up to $5,000 or

imprisoned for one year, or both.

 

     Electronic Fund Transfer Act. If a financial institution

does not follow the provisions of the EFT Act, you may sue for

actual damages (or in certain cases when the institution fails

to correct an error or recredit an account, for three times

actual damages) plus punitive damages of not less than $100 nor

more than $1,000. You are also entitled to court costs and

attorney's fees in a successful lawsuit. Class action suits are

also permitted.

 

     If an institution fails to make an electronic fund

transfer, or to stop payment of a preauthorized transfer when

properly instructed by you to do so, you may sue for all

damages that result from the failure.

 

 

Glossary

 

 

     Annual Percentage Rate (APR) -- The cost of credit as a

yearly rate.

 

     Appraisal Fee -- The charge for estimating the value of

property offered as security.

 

     Asset -- Property that can be used to repay debt, such as

stocks and bonds or a car.

 

     Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) -- Electronic terminals

located on bank premises or elsewhere, through which customers

of financial institutions may make deposits, withdrawals, or

other transactions as they would through a bank teller.

 

     Balloon Payment -- A large extra payment that may be

charged at the end of a loan or lease.

 

     Billing Error -- Any mistake in your monthly statement as

defined by the Fair Credit Billing Act.

 

     Business Days -- Check with your institution to find out

what days it counts as business days under the Truth in Lending

and Electronic Fund Transfer Acts.

 

     Collateral -- Property offered to support a loan and

subject to seizure if you default.

 

     Cosigner -- Another person who signs your loan and assumes

equal responsibility for it.

 

     Credit -- The right granted by a creditor to pay in the

future in order to buy or borrow in the present; a sum of money

due a person or business.

 

     Credit Bureau -- An agency that keeps your credit record.

 

     Credit Card -- Any card, plate, or coupon book used from

time to time or over and over again to borrow money or buy

goods or services on credit.

 

     Credit History -- The record of how you've borrowed and

repaid debts.

 

     Creditor -- A person or business from whom you borrow or

to whom you owe money.

 

     Credit-related Insurance -- Health, life, or accident

insurance designed to pay the outstanding balance of debt.

 

     Credit Scoring System -- A statistical system used to rate

credit applicants according to various characteristics relevant

to creditworthiness.

 

     Creditworthiness -- Past and future ability to repay

debts.

 

     Debit Card (EFT Card) -- A plastic card, looks similar to

a credit card, that consumers may use to make purchases,

withdrawals, or other types of electronic fund transfers.

 

     Default -- Failure to repay a loan or otherwise meet the

terms of your credit agreement.

 

     Disclosures -- Information that must be given to consumers

about their financial dealings.

 

     Elderly Applicant -- As defined in the Equal Credit

Opportunity Act, a person 62 or older.

 

     Electronic Fund Transfer (EFT) Systems -- A variety of

systems and technologies for transferring funds electronically

rather than by check.

 

     Finance Charge -- The total dollar amount credit will

cost.

 

     Home Equity Line of Credit -- A form of openend credit in

which the home serves as collateral.

 

     Joint Account -- A credit account held by two or more

people so that all can use the account and all assume legal

responsibility to repay.

 

     Late Payment -- A payment made later than agreed upon in a

credit contract and on which additional charges may be imposed.

 

     Lessee -- A person who signs a lease to get temporary use

of property.

 

     Lessor -- A company that provides temporary use of

property usually in return for periodic payment.

 

     Liability on an Account -- Legal responsibility to repay

debt.

 

     Open-End Credit -- A line of credit that may be used over

and over again, including credit cards, overdraft credit

accounts, and home equity lines.

 

     Open-End Lease -- A lease which may involve a balloon

payment based on the value of the property when it is returned.

 

     Overdraft Checking -- A line of credit that allows you to

write checks or draw funds by means of an EFT card for more

than your actual balance, with an interest charge on the

overdraft.

 

     Point-of-Sale (POS) -- A method by which consumers can

pay for purchases by having their deposit accounts debited

electronically without the use of checks.

 

     Points and Origination Fees -- Points are finance charges

paid at the beginning of a mortgage in addition to monthly

interest. One point equals one percent of the loan amount. An

origination fee covers the lender's work in preparing your

mortgage loan.

 

     Punitive Damages -- Damages awarded by a court above

actual damages as punishment for a violation of law.

 

     Rescission -- The cancellation or "unwinding" of a

contract.

 

     Security -- Property pledged to the creditor in case of a

default on a loan; see collateral.

 

     Security Interest -- The creditor's right to take property

or a portion of property offered as security.

 

     Service Charge -- A component of some finance charges,

such as the fee for triggering an overdraft checking account

into use.

 

 

Subject Index

 

 

Age

APR

Balloon Payment

Cancellation (Rescission)

Complaints

Credit Applications

Credit Bureaus

Credit Cards

     Billing Errors

     Liability for Loss or Theft

Credit Laws

     Consumer Leasing

     Electronic Fund Transfers

     Equal Credit Opportunity

     Fair Credit Billing

     Fair Credit Reporting

     Truth in Lending

Credit Records

     Confidentiality

     Correcting Errors

     Women

Credit Records

     Time Limits on Information

Credit Scoring

Crediting of Payments

Creditworthiness

Debit Cards

Defective Merchandise

Denials of Credit

Discrimination

Division of Consumer and Community Affairs

EFT

     Errors on Account

     Liability for Loss or Theft

     Preauthorized Transfers

     Record of Transaction

Enforcement Agencies

Finance Charge

Housing Loans

Leasing

Open-end Credit

Penalties

Point-of-Sale

Public Assistance

Reserve Banks

Settlement Costs

Women

     Alimony and Support Payments

     Change in Marital Status

     Cosigners

     Credit Histories

     Information About Spouse

     Separate Accounts

 

 

 

Directory of Federal Agencies

 

 

National Banks

Compliance Management

Office of the Comptroller of the Currency

250 E Street, S.W.

Mail Stop 7-5

Washington, D.C. 20219

(202) 874-4820

 

State Member Banks of the Federal Reserve System

Division of Consumer and Community Affairs

Federal Reserve Board

Washington, D.C. 20551

(202) 452-3693

 

Nonmember Federally Insured State Banks

Office of Consumer Programs

Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.

Washington, D.C. 20456

(202) 898-3536 or (800) 934-FDIC

 

Savings and Loan Associations

Division of Consumer and Civil Rights

Office of Community Investment

Office of Thrift Supervision

1700 G Street, N.W.

Washington, D.C. 20552

(202) 906-6237

 

Federal Credit Unions

Office of Public and Congressional Affairs

Office of Consumer Programs

National Credit Union Administration

1776 G Street, N.W.

Washington, D.C. 20456

(202) 682-9640

 

Other Lenders

Division of Credit Practices

Bureau of Consumer Protection

Federal Trade Commission

Washington, D.C. 20580

(202) 326-3233

 

Department of Justice

Civil Division

Office of Consumer Litigation

550 11th St., N.W.

The Todd Building

Room No. 6114

Washington, D.C. 20530

(202) 514-6786

 

 

Federal Reserve Banks

 

 

BOARD OF GOVERNORS OF THE FEDERAL RESERVE SYSTEM

Publication Services MS-138

Washington, DC 20551

(202) 452-3000

 

ATLANTA, Georgia

Public Affairs Department

104 Marietta Street, N.W.

ZIP 30303-2713

(404) 521-8500

 

BOSTON, Massachusetts

Public Services Department

P.O. Box 2076

ZIP 02106-2076

(617) 973-3000

 

CHICAGO, Illinois

Public Information Center

230 South LaSalle Street

P.O. Box 834

ZIP 60690-0834

(312) 322-5322

 

CLEVELAND, Ohio

Public Affairs Department

P.O. Box 6387

ZIP 44101-1387

(216) 579-2000

 

DALLAS, Texas

Public Affairs Department

2200 North Pearl Street

Zip 75201

(214) 922-6000

 

KANSAS CITY, Missouri

Public Affairs Department

925 Grand Avenue

ZIP 64198-0001

(816) 881-2000

 

MINNEAPOLIS, Minnesota

Public Affairs Department

250 Marquette Avenue

ZIP 55401-0291

(612) 340-2345

 

NEW YORK, New York

Public Information Department

33 Liberty Street

ZIP 10045

(212) 720-5000

 

PHILADELPHIA, Pennsylvania

Public Information Department

P.O. Box 66

ZIP 19105

(215) 574-6000

 

RICHMOND, Virginia

Public Services Department

P.O. Box 27622

ZIP 23261

(804) 697-8000

 

ST. LOUIS, Missouri

Public Information Office

P.O. Box 442

ZIP 63166

(314) 444-8444

 

SAN FRANCISCO, California

Public Information Department

P.O. Box 7702

ZIP 94120

(415) 974-2000

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