A number of credit card organizations are honoring National Consumers Week, which concludes Saturday, with new educational initiatives.
The U.S. Office of Consumer Affairs, which sponsors the annual event, chose the theme "Know your consumer fights."
Visa U.S.A. kicked off the week by announcing new partnerships with three state governments to support.and endorse the association's educational program for high school students, Choices and Decisions.
"The banking committees of state governments have an interest in exposing high school students to this kind of information," said Susan Murdy, Visa's vice president of public affairs.
Specifically, two banks have hooked up with congressional representatives: First Interstate Bank with Rep. Elizabeth Furse of Oregon and Star Bank with Rep. Eric Fingerhut of Ohio. At the same time, First Union National Bank and the South Carolina Department of Consumer Affairs are sponsoring a joint program to present Choices and Decision to teachers.
Though the state governments are not paying for or distributing the program to schools, Visa views their support as a way to give it more visibility.
Approximately 10,000 schools across the country are using Choices and Decisions, which teaches high school students about personal finance issues.
MasterCard International Inc. is marking the week with a new wrinkle in its "Know the difference, hang up on fraud" campaign.
The New York-based association is teaming up with the National Fraud Information Center and the National Council of La Raza, a Washington, D.C.based advocacy group that reaches two million people through its 170 affiliates. Those organizations and Polly Baca. special assistant to President Clinton and director of the U.S. Office of Consumer Affairs, will reach out to the Hispanic community, offering advice on how to avoid telephone seam artists.
MasterCard formed a partnership with the fraud information center in May to raise consumer awareness on the issue of telephone fraud. The two organizations developed an educational brochure and ran public service announcements.
This latest initiative reflects the those same efforts, but targets Spanish-speaking consumers.
Recently, Visa also duplicated some of its educational material in Spanish. The association's brochure, "Credit Cards: An Owner's Manual" is now available in Spanish.
Bankcard Holders of America in McLean, Va., summarized some of the latest credit card offerss warning consumers to read the "fine print" said Ruth Susswein, executive director. Offers to avoid, according to the nonprofit organization, include cards that don't have a grace period and solicitations that promise one thing, but qualify it in small print.
American Express Co. announced this week that it will be unveiling a new consumer education initiative in November.
Even the Federal Reserve is parceling out advice on how to shop for a credit card.
"Very few people are aware of the Federal Reserve's consumer education efforts,";' said a spokeswoman, who added that the regulatory agency will be putting more effort into getting the word out about its various educational materials.
The Federal Reserve published a brochure that it is splashing in a press conference in Washington today. The brochure entitled, "Shop... The Card You Pick Can Save You Monday," encourages consumers m be selective when choosing a credit card.
The brochure includes definitions of terms, advice on what to look for in a credit card offer, and a list, which the Federal Reserve publishes twice a year, detailing the pricing of 150 card issuers, including the top 25.