SAN FRANCISCO Consumer Action, a watchdog group that monitors credit card companies, says fees and interest rates are rising steadily.
For the first time in the 20-plus years of its survey, all banks charged late fees. The review of 109 card products issued by 45 companies found that banks flat late fees averaged $26, against $25.50 in 1999, Consumer Actions most recent survey. FleetBoston Financial Corp.s card subsidiary charged the most, $35.
Sixty-nine percent of the issuers have policies that raise the interest rate on customers who pay a bill late. The highest such penalty rate, 29.99%, was charged by three issuers: Associates National Bank, a subsidiary of Citigroup Inc.; Direct Merchants Bank, a subsidiary of Metris Cos. Inc.; and Household Bank, a subsidiary of Household Corp.
Fees for cash advances when consumers withdraw cash using a credit card have also risen since the 1999 survey. Fifteen percent of the banks charge 4% of the withdrawal, up from 11% of issuers polled in 1999. Fifty-one percent of the issuers charged 3%, versus 33% in 1999.
Full results of the survey are posted on Consumer Actions Web site.