Credit or shred it?

New regulations designed to protect are leaving holes in credit law.

Last May, lawmakers put together the Credit CARD Act, a series of reforms intended to help protect consumers against what the Federal Reserve calls âÄúunfair and deceptiveâÄù practices. Major components of the act include limits on retroactive rate increases (interest rate increases on existing card balances), more timely notification for changes in terms on accounts, lower late payment and over-limit fees and a provision that requires card seekers under the age of 21 to have a parent or guardian co-sign. Many of the provisions went into effect Monday, while others go into effect later this year. Though the reforms were intended to help consumers who are drowning in debt, they also come with a plague of loopholes and traps as credit companies protect their bottom lines. If you saw your interest rate double or even triple right before the reforms took effect, donâÄôt be surprised. A Capital One spokeswoman speaking to ReaderâÄôs Digest said, âÄúAccount changes like this are necessary in order for us to âĦ continue to lend in the current environment.âÄù Expect, too, to see annual fees for certain cards come back, as well as inactivity fees for failing to charge enough each month. Costs for rewards programs are also expected to jump through the roof. Joe Stiglitz, a Nobel Prize-winning professor at Columbia University, said banks have conspired to extract as much money from Americans as they can and will continue to take part in a variety of deceptive, anti-competitive practices. Students and others would be wise to call their card companies, get up to date on the terms of their accounts and stay educated on future changes. Perhaps now more than ever, credit wonâÄôt come free of cost.