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10 most unreadable credit card contracts

CreditCards.com analysis of major card issuers contracts finds best, worst

By CreditCards.com

When it comes to readability, these credit card agreements are the worst, as measured by readability programs in a CreditCards.com analysis.

CreditCards.com Readability Study finds major card issuers' contracts unreadable by most Americans
The agreements were analyzed using a mathematical formula that determines how many years of education readers need in order to understand the content. The formula is one used for years in literacy and textbook circles called the FOG Index, with FOG standing for Frequency of Gobbledygook. 

These contracts are thick with FOG. The 10 most unreadable contracts require a reading level starting at 16.8 years -- or most of the way into someone's first year of post-graduate education. Experts in readability say that contracts should require, at most, a ninth-grade reading level if they are to be widely understood. 

Almost all were credit unions, but to be fair, credit unions also occupied every one of the slots on the list of 10 most readable contracts.

10 MOST UNREADABLE CREDIT CARD AGREEMENTS
Rank Contract issuer
Reading level (years)
Number of words
1. GTE Federal Credit Union 18.5 3,558
2. Langley Federal Credit Union 18 3,499
3. Eglin Federal Credit Union 17.8 2,735
4. CompassBank 17.5 10,163
5. First Financial Federal Credit Union of Maryland 17.3 8,675
6. CompassBank 17.2 9,086
7. Alabama Telco Credit Union 17.1 1,412
8. Sharonview Federal Credit Union 17.1 4,336
9. Teachers Federal Credit Union 17 2,600
10. Educators Credit Union 16.8 2,746
Source: CreditCards.com analysis of the credit card agreements contained in a database maintained by the Federal Reserve. Under the Credit CARD Act of 2009, all U.S. credit card issuers with more than 10,000 credit card accounts must submit their agreements to Fed every quarter.

See related: MAIN STORY: Credit card agreements unreadable to 4 of 5 Americans10 most readable credit card agreements, 10 wordiest credit card agreements, Readability of credit card agreements from biggest 20 banksHow credit card agreements' readability compares to familiar documents, Quotable: What lawmakers, consumer activists, bankers say, 3 language experts try to make sense of a card agreement, Federal database of credit card agreements not user friendly, Video: Consumers try in vain to understand credit card agreements

Published: July 22, 2010



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