Credit card issuers are reviving inactivity charges as part of a series of actions to stem declining revenue.
Fifth Third Bancorp added a $19 fee for the majority of its cards in June, in part to offset increasing servicing costs, said Stephanie Honan, a spokeswoman for the Cincinnati company.
"We want to encourage active use and management of the accounts," Honan said.
Inactivity fees have been used before, said Linda Sherry, the director of national priorities with Consumer Action. Sherry, who conducts the group's annual survey of credit card fees, said inactivity fees often have been waived if the consumer used the card periodically.
But various types of fees have proliferated since President Obama signed the Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility and Disclosure Act May 22, which sets limits on rates and other terms. Bank of America Corp. and Citigroup Inc. have both introduced annual fees on some cards.
Citi also varies the interest rate it charges customers based on how often they use their cards, according to letters the company sent cardholders last month.
Customers get back 10% of their total interest each month if they exceed a set amount of purchases.
The amount of spending needed to qualify for the rebate depends on their payment history with Citi, the letters said. A customer with a $35 monthly finance charge may see a $3.50 credit in the same month's bill.
Customers can opt out, paying off existing balances under current interest rates until the card expires. They also may get lower rates if they agree to transfer other card balances to Citi, according to the letters.
"These actions are necessary given the doubling of credit card losses across the industry," said Samuel Wang, a Citi spokesman.
Bank of America is looking at annual fees ranging from $29 to $99. The charges were part of a change in terms for fewer than half of 1% of B of A's cards, said Anne Pace, a spokeswoman for the Charlotte company.
It is a test and B of A has not made any decisions about the wider use of annual fees, Pace said. "We're trying to get a better understanding on the value customers place on their cards," she said. "The fee is based on the type of card and the benefit it provides to the customers."