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Some credit card companies rush to act before new law


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The Lanes have a low-interest Chase credit card that was sold as a way to consolidate large debts and pay them down responsibly over time. The Lanes showed CNN that they have excellent credit, have never been late with a payment and in the last two years cut their outstanding balance in half. They said they were shocked when Chuck opened their online statement to discover Chase had driven up their monthly payment from $370 to $911.

"I was devastated," Chuck Lane said.

When Lane called the bank to complain, he was told he could continue to make his old payment if he agreed to an ever-increasing interest rate.

A Chase spokeswoman said the higher rate had nothing to do with the Lanes' credit or payment history, but rather that the company doubled the minimum payments for more than 1 million cardholders in August because it wants them to pay down more of their principal.

In a statement to CNN, the company said tens of millions of Chase loans "have been paid back in less than 24 months" but a small percentage of customers have not made as much progress and "our desire is to have these balances paid back in a reasonable period of time."

Joe Ridout, an advocate with Consumer Action, said, "Truly, this is the the single most abusive credit card change in terms that I've ever seen."

Ridout described the tactic as bait-and-switch because Chase sold the cards as low interest and now is making the card unaffordable to many customers unless they switch to a higher interest rate.

"This is a very bogus compromise, and what the bank should really do is honor their original promises." Ridout said.

Chase told CNN it has no plans to follow Discover's lead. Wells Fargo plans to raise credit card interest rates 3 percent.

Consumer Action is fielding hundreds of complaints from consumers who are seeing their banks raise rates, minimum payments and penalty fees before the new law takes effect.

"It's really touched off a chase to the bottom among credit card banks," Ridout said, "because they know that after that date it will be much more difficult to change the terms when a cardholder pays on time and commits no infractions."

JPMorgan Chase today became the first of America’s big banks to report its third quarter profits, which soared above expectations on strong fixed-income growth.

The bank, America’s second largest by assets, said that profits rose from $527 million (£330 million) in the third quarter last year to $3.59 billion.

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