Editorial: The right idea for credit cards

Published 10:03 am Friday, December 9, 2011


Here’s an idea whose time has come:

A shorter, more concise, easier-to-understand credit card agreement.

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Credit cards agreements these days are 5,000 words long and most people cannot understand what they are reading, let alone what dangers they are getting into.

You’d think a simpler arrangement might come from the private sector in response to consumer demand, but, no, many banks are fearful of lawsuits and end up giving consumers fine print lawyer babble. No wonder two-thirds of credit card users don’t understand their credit card agreements.

This idea comes from a government agency. The new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau on Wednesday unveiled a 1,000-word credit card agreement written in simple English.

The new credit card form will be tested in the first half of 2012 at the Pentagon Federal Credit Union, one of the nation’s three largest credit unions.

Called “Know Before You Owe” credit cards, the form manages being shorter in part by referencing a glossary available online. Still, the noteworthy part is the use of common language. Even the online glossary is in easy-to-grasp language and explains basic concepts such as interest rates.

Curious? We urge you to visit the website that showcases the agreement: www.consumerfinance.gov/credit-cards/knowbeforeyouowe/.