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"Universal Default" a controversial practice by credit card companies

By Dave Dellecese

ROME - It's no secret that when you apply for a credit card, you'll incur various fees and interest rates.

But there's one practice that has become controversial on the local and national front - "Universal Default." It's a condition credit card companies use to penalize those who make late payments - even if its only one time.

"Universal Default is a fairly new concept," said State Senator Joseph Griffo. "One that isn't sitting well with many credit card users."

"Universal Default is based on what the credit score is," said Pat Manley of Consumer Credit Counseling Service. "So, if you misplace your bill and you don't pay your payment on time, and that hits your credit report, your credit score is going to decrease."

That will increase your interest rate on all of your cards. Companies that use Universal Default warn their customers about it - in the fine print section of the agreement.

A lot of people don't read it when they get it and of course its not in big bold print so you don't really pay attention.

Credit card counselors say there isn't much you can do to fight this practice. Your best defense is to find out if your credit card company uses it.

The best thing would be to look at the contract if you still have it when you got your initial card...sent a booklet.

Another way you can find out is through the website: www.creditratings.com/credit/newyork

It lists all major credit cards and whether they use Universal Default.

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