If you’re like us (we know…but just play along for a moment) you get a letter from your credit card company, glance at it for amount due and, if there aren’t any, promptly file it in the trash. Starting now, this could be a costly mistake: the year-end disclosure notice you get from your credit card provider may include important changes to your account. The Wall Street Journal reminds that imminent federal rules governing consumer cards are prompting providers to act fast and change their terms — and not for the better. For example, many providers are cranking up interest rates close to 30 percent. Don’t want to pay that much? You have the choice to opt out (and effectively cancel your card) but you’d better get out your specs and go through the fine print so you know what’s coming down (before it lands on you).
Waive goodbye to credit courtesy. There was a time not so long ago when, if you paid your credit card late, you could call the provider, offer any old excuse (“Space aliens kidnapped my bill”) and get the late fee waived. Those days, it appears, are over. We pay our bill online and, since we’re busy multitaskers (and lazy and disorganized), we rely on the “payment due” e-mail from the credit card company. Sometimes that e-mail arrives in the spam box (or, we suspect, never arrives at all) and by the time we realize the payment is due we’re facing a $39 late fee. That happened recently. But when we called up customer service, they most the rep would offer was a 50 percent break. (Who knew multibillion-dollar credit corporations cared so much about $19.50? Well, now you know.)
The incredible shrinking small-business loan. As difficult as it gets to deal with a credit card company, a lot of small businesses don’t have a choice. CNN Money reports that large-bank lending to small businesses continues to disappear. In October major banks tightened their small-business loan balances by a further $1 billion. The banks promise to lend more next year. (And if you’re gullible enough to believe that, you’ll never get a job as a credit card customer service rep.)
How to save money on your taxes. More good news: it’s tax time. But, helpfully, news outlets like USA Today are offering tips that might cut your tax bill. Check out the advice here.