The Credit Card Act of 2009: What It Does and Doesn’t Do

It limits credit card fees and makes statements more transparent. It also sharply reduced the marketing of credit cards to young people.
Claire TsosieMay 3, 2021

Many or all of the products featured here are from our partners who compensate us. This may influence which products we write about and where and how the product appears on a page. However, this does not influence our evaluations. Our opinions are our own. Here is a list of our partners and here's how we make money.

For every credit card sin, even minor ones, there used to be fire-and-brimstone consequences from the issuer. The Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure Act of 2009, also known as the Card Act, changed that.

After passing with strong bipartisan support in the House and Senate, the Card Act was signed into law in May 2009 by President Barack Obama. If you've made a late payment on a credit card since the law passed, or if you maxed out a card  — or even if you've ever carried a balance! — you can thank the consumer protections in the law. Without them, those actions might have cost you a lot more.

The Card Act reduced “gotcha” credit card fees by more than $16 billion in the years after it passed, according to estimates from the , the agency tasked with enforcing the law. In a , the bureau noted some positive changes for consumers since the law was implemented:

Still, the Card Act hasn’t escaped criticism. The  says the law has driven up credit card interest rates and annual fees. The ABA also blames the law for shrinking credit lines and making credit less available, especially for subprime borrowers, young people and immigrants. On the flip side, some consumer advocates say the law doesn't go far enough in stamping out harmful issuer practices.

In broad terms, the Card Act curtails certain credit card charges, protects young consumers and makes the true cost of credit more transparent. It also restricts fees on gift cards and nonreloadable prepaid cards. Here are some of its most notable protections:

Shortly after the Card Act became law, one subprime credit card issuer started offering a card with an As it happens, that's still legal. The Card Act limits how issuers can increase interest rates on existing accounts, but the interest rates themselves are still governed by state laws.

Among other limitations, the law also doesn't protect you from certain fees or interest rate increases. It also applies only to consumer credit cards — not business credit cards.

If you think your rights under the Card Act are being violated and your issuer isn't responding to your complaints, The bureau will work on your behalf to get a resolution.

On a similar note...
Dive even deeper in Credit Cards