Wyden seeks rating system for credit cards


U.S. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., said he plans to introduce legislation that would direct the Federal Reserve to create a rating system for credit cards.

The highest-risk cards, such as those that allow the issuing bank to raise the interest rate at any time without stating a reason, would receive one star. The lowest-risk cards would get five stars.

At a news conference at Portland State University, Wyden noted that that U.S. households had an average of $6,900 in credit card debt at the end of September, an increase of 41 percent from a year earlier.

"These credit card debts are hitting Oregon families like a wrecking ball," he said Tuesday.

Wyden said he and U.S. Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., will introduce the legislation next week. He said the system would give consumers a way to judge the riskiness of a credit-card offer without having to plow through all that fine print.

It's the fine print that got Ryan Klute, a 25-year-old Portland State University senior who was 22 when he signed up for a card that offered a 9.9 percent interest rate and a $2,000 credit line.

Klute said he quickly maxed out the card, and saw his interest rate soar to 29 percent after just one late monthly payment.

"We (students) aren't dumb, but we're busy and we're broke," Klute said at the news conference. "That's why credit card companies send us four to five applications a year."

Consumer advocates support Wyden and Obama's proposal, but a banking industry spokesman said he doesn't know if it's necessary.

"We all agree that disclosures could be improved, but this may be premature," said John Hall, a spokesman for the American Banking Association in Washington, D.C.

Hall said the federal government is considering a measure, known as Regulation Z, which would increase disclosure requirements for credit cards.


Information from: The Oregonian, http:www.oregonlive.com

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