Bank of America told thousands of its cardholders in recent weeks -- even those with good payment histories -- that they faced a rate hike from 9% to as high as 28% if they didn't pay off their balances at the old rate and stop using their cards. The bank, the largest credit card issuer, since its 2006 acquisition of MBNA, says it's all part of its "periodic" review of customer credit risk.
Consumer advocates cried foul. It's one thing for card companies to raise rates on customers who are behind in their payments or whose credit scores decline greatly, but quite another for on-time customers with no apparent black marks against them to be put in the higher-rate camp.
Bank of America gives card holders the chance to opt out of the higher rate by paying the account off, but such a request must be made in writing. "Consumers need to be aware of what is going on," says Curtis Arnold, founder of cardratings.com.