As credit card issuers join in the banking industry's increased emphasis on fee income, consumers who pay their bills late or make purchases beyond their credit limits are discovering that such behavior can be costly.

To some observers, it seems eminently fair to tax such profligate behavior. "If you don't violate the contract you don't get stuck with these $10 or $15 bills," said Donald Auriemma, a card industry consultant based in Westbury, N.Y.

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