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Eight Most Important Credit Card Changes

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Major provisions of the CARD Act, which was signed into law in May, take effect Feb. 22. However, the credit card industry has changed dramatically since then. Issuers have reacted to a rough economy and the stricter law by finding new ways to increase revenue.

Companies have raised interest rates, closed accounts, increased fees and decreased reward programs. The number of people who will be hurt by the new changes outnumber those who benefitted.

Here are the major provisions of the CARD Act:

1. There will be new rules for interest rates. Issuers cannot increase rates during the first 12 months of a new account. On existing accounts, if your rate is increased, the new annual percentage rate (APR) only applies to your new purchases; your existing balance is still charged the old interest rate. (There are some exceptions on both of those provisions: if the card has a variable rate and the index goes up; if the introductory period ends and the rate increases to the standard rate; the payment is more than 60 days late; payments fall behind in the debt-management plan.) Any monthly payments above the minimum amount must be applied to the balance with the highest APR first.

2. There will be protections for underage consumers. If you are under 21, you will have to prove you are able to make payments or you will need a cosigner to open a credit card account. Issuers are also prohibited from offering free gifts to young adults as inducements for signing up for a credit card.

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