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Senior reporter Fred O. Williams

Fred O. Williams

Fred O. Williams is senior reporter for A business journalist since 1987, he began focusing on consumer credit while covering debt collection for the Buffalo (N.Y.) News starting in 1997. That focus led to a research project supported by a fellowship at The Ohio State University and a book, "Fight Back Against Unfair Debt Collection Practices," published by FT Press in 2010. His work has appeared in Kiplinger's Personal Finance magazine and USA Today, and he has won awards from the Society of American Business Editors and Writers and the New York State Associated Press Association.

Fred O. Williams's stories at

New rules proposed for payday loans -- The federal consumer watchdog is preparing rules that are expected to fight repeat payday loans without shutting borrowers off from quick cash ... (See Payday loans)

Fed signals step toward higher rates -- The Federal Reserve indicated that the countdown is ticking toward higher interest rates later this year ... (See Fed's loses patience)

Complaints data show which cards pay refunds most, least often -- A look at 14,000 credit card complaints sent to the federal consumer bureau shows big differences in how cards solve disputes ... (See Cards complaints data)

Study makes the case against credit card arbitration -- Millions of consumers have been forced to accept arbitration clauses in case of disputes, but few understand them, says a new study ... (See CFBP arbitration study)

Credit reports to raise standards to improve accuracy -- The big three credit bureaus will take steps to reduce errors on credit reports and improve the dispute process under a settlement announced Monday ... (See Credit report accuracy settlement)

Debt collection complaints take aim at credit cards -- Credit card balances are a dwindling piece of debt collection work, but they remained a top source of consumer complaints in 2014 ... (See Collection complaints)

How to fight phantom-debt collectors -- Callers with details about you and your debts can be convincing, so it pays to know how to tell a legitimate collector from a phantom-debt scam ... (See Phantom debt)

Tougher rules coming for debt collectors -- Federal regulators are writing a major update of debt collection rules for the first time in decades, but the penalty will remain a wrist-slap ... (See Debt collection rules)

Judge: Merchants can steer you to lower-cost card -- Merchants should be allowed to offer consumers discounts or perks to use a lower-cost credit card, a federal court ruled ... (See American Express anitrust ruling)

Households staggering under student loans -- While problems with most other loans are easing, student loans are entering uncharted heights and late payments are surging, says new data ... (See Report: Student debt surging)

CFPB orders refunds for 98,000 subprime cardholders -- Cardholders of Continental Finance Co. are due refunds of excess fees that absorbed more than 25 percent of credit limit ... (See Continental Finance refunds)

Fed keeps rates low amid mixed economic signals -- The Federal Reserve indicated that it remains on course to hike interest rates later this year ... (See FOMC meeting Jan. 28, 2015)

FTC: Many credit report disputes go unresolved -- When a credit bureau rejects a complaint about an error, only 30 percent of people agree that their report is accurate ... (See FTC credit disputes report)

Road to rewards redemption gets easier -- Cardholders lose millions of dollars in rewards, but that could be changing after one big issuer lowers hurdles to claiming cash back ... (See Rewards redemption)

CFPB urges colleges to compare deals for student accounts -- Colleges that endorse a bank in return for a fee should take a hard look at the cost for students,federal watchdog agency says ... (See CFPB)

New protections from financial 'gotchas' in 2015 -- New rules coming in 2015 from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau should make it safer and less expensive to use plastic and other forms of consumer debt ... (See 2015 CFPB preview)

Card borrowing lags while student, auto loans soar -- Consumers are borrowing more to finance cards and college degrees, while credit card borrowing is stuck at 2003 levels, a Federal Reserve Bank of New York report shows ... (See Borrowing)

Fed: Countdown to higher rates continues at 'patient' pace -- Interest rate setters at the Federal Reserve signaled that near-zero market rates are approaching an end, but they'll not be rushed ... (See Fed 'patient' with rate hikes)

Campus card agreements continue shift from credit to debit -- Special deals to market credit cards on campus are declining, but other types of plastic -- which face less disclosure -- are gaining ... (See College cards)

CFPB moves to soften medical debt's impact -- It's unique among debts, so medical debt deserves to get special scrutiny, the federal consumer watchdog agency decides ... (See Medical debt)

What yield does your bank make on credit cards? -- Using 2013 federal bank data, we list 500 U.S. banks and show the percentage yield they make from credit card holders, before and after losses ... (See 500 banks' yields)

Banks that make the most money, and the least, on credit card loans -- The most costly card companies are ones you probably never heard of -- but whose cards you just might carry ... (See Yields)

Card applications fall among younger, lower-score consumers -- Fewer young people and people with low credit scores are applying for credit cards, according to a new consumer survey from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York ... (See Card applications survey)

Lessons from cities with the best and worst credit scores -- One city is known for college grads, the other for cotton and the Blues. Measured by credit score, Mankato, Minnesota, and Greenwood, Mississippi, are as far apart financially as they are culturally ... (See Best, worst scores)

New rules aim to tame prepaid cards -- The fee-laden cards, gaining in popularity, would have to disclose more about those fees under rules unveiled by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau ... (See Prepaid rules)

Fed: banks ease grip on cards -- Just as banks are finally lowering their barriers to credit card ownership, consumers aren't so keen to accept them, says a new Fed survey of senior loan officers ... (See Banks loosen grip)

Fed ends special stimulus for economy -- The Federal Reserve announced the end of its bond-buying program, but signaled that it will keep its main lever on interest rates at near-zero levels ... (more)

Retailers push system to rival Apple Pay and other mobile wallets -- Two drugstore chains switched off support for Apple Pay, as a group of big retailers gets behind a rival system for checkout smartphone payments ... (See Mobile payments)

Rule makes privacy statements more meaningful -- Banks can skip mailing their privacy statements as long as they don't share your information in ways that are restricted by law ... (more)

Obama puts federal might behind chip-and-PIN card security -- A White House move to encourage the roll out of chip-and-PIN security strengthens the push for new weapons against data breaches and ID theft ... (See US goes chip-and-PIN)

Banks seek rule change to allow more cellphone fraud alerts -- Despite a plague of data breaches, banks fear lawsuits if they send fraud alerts via text messages and cellphone calls, according to an industry group ... (See Fraud alert texts)

Proposal would extend Military Lending Act to credit cards -- An overhaul of protections for soldiers would have a big impact on credit cards, but the proposal is heading for a fight with the banking industry ... (See Military lending)

Study reveals rewards cards' rise in popularity -- Rewards cards now make up a majority of new accounts and spending on cards, practically taking over the market, a bank industry report says ... (See Rewards cards rise)

U.S. Bank refunds $48 million for add-ons -- The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau extended its crackdown on bank add-on products to U.S. Bank, which charged for credit protection products that consumers didn't always receive ... (See $48 million refund)

Fed holds course toward rate hike in 2015 -- The Federal Reserve indicated that it will keep interest rates at historic lows for the time being to support the job market, but higher rates are coming ... (See Sept. 17, 2014: Fed holds course)

Mobile payments raise consumer protection worries -- Consumer advocates worry a mobile finance boom will make it easier to snoop on your buying habits, or even clean out your mobile wallet ... (See Mobile protection)

Fed survey says consumers' card discipline is holding firm -- Federal Reserve Survey of Consumer Finances finds that debt burdens remain in check long after the recession's plunge ... (See Survey of Consumer Finances)

CFPB warns card issuers: Reveal costs of 0% promotional offers -- No-interest promotions are costly for credit card users who lose the grace period and must pay interest on new purchases, regulators warned ... (See CFPB 0% offer warning)

Discover, AmEx tie for tops in customer satisfaction -- American Express, the perennial leader in J.D. Power's ranking, shares the top satisfaction score for the first time since the survey started in 2007 ... (See J.D. Power)

Capital One edits language allowing visits at home or work -- Capital One said it is dropping language in its general purpose card agreements allowing visits at home or work, but keeping those rights in store cards for now ... (See Cap One)

Federal watchdog slaps auto lender for credit report errors -- The U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau fined auto lender First Investors Financial Services Group Inc. for putting errors on thousands of consumers credit reports ... (See Fined)

NY Fed: Consumer debt up in Q2 -- Credit card loans and other nonhousing consumer debt rose, according to the quarterly analysis by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York ... (See Household debt and credit)

Credit card complaints Q1 2014: a graphical look -- What are credit card users angry about? Billing disputes, say the complaints filed with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in the first quarter of 2014 ... (See Complaints)

FICO's new credit score formula helps many, hurts some -- People with paid-off debt or medical debts will see scores rise with the new FICO math, while others will receive lower marks ... (See FICO formula)

Virtual debt collection lets you negotiate, settle up online -- With a computer or a smartphone, you can review a claim, set up a monthly repayment plan or even cut a debt settlement deal with an algorithm ... (See Virtual collection)

Banks loosening grip on credit cards, says Fed survey -- Banks continue to get more generous with new cards, but subprime applicants still feel a chill, according to the Federal Reserve's quarterly survey of loan officers ... (See Senior loan offiicers' survey)

Fed holds course toward higher interest rates -- Zooming economic growth in the second quarter didn't prompt the Federal Reserve to hasten its pace toward an interest rate hike in 2015 ... (See FOMC meeting July 30, 2014)

How America pays: Fed study paints big picture of card trends -- How many credit cards are there? How many debit cards? How many checks do we write? The Federal Reserve's new payments study paints a statistical portrait of how we spend ... (See Payments study)

CFPB expands complaints system to prepaid cards, pawnshops -- The federal consumer watchdog significantly expanded its consumer complaints program to include an array of financial products found outside banks ... (See Complaints)

Collectors see less credit card debt -- Credit card holders are less likely to get calls from a debt collector than in the past, because collectors have less card debt to pursue, industry surveys say ... (See Debt)

Fed: Card balances extend growth -- Balances on credit cards grew again in May, extending April's record-setting surge, the Federal Reserve said ... (See Consumer credit report, July 8, 2014)

Higher One grows to dominate college debit card market -- A little-known upstart has quickly grown to dominate the campus debit card business, but it is now drawing heat from Congress, regulators ... (See Higher One)

GE Capital to refund $225 million to 749,000 customers -- The No. 1 issuer of store credit cards is paying $225 million to 749,000 consumers, with most of the money going to Spanish-speakers excluded from debt relief offers ... (See GE Capital)

Fed shrugs at inflation, holds rates steady -- The Federal Reserve signaled that it will continue the cheap money policy that it has penciled on its calendar through sometime in mid-2015. ... (See FOMC holds rates steady)

CFPB seeks lower-cost ways to serve up mobile banking -- As banking moves to mobile devices, banking regulators want to make sure consumer protections and cost savings go along ... (See Mobile banking)

Card debt rises sharply in April -- Balances on credit cards soared at a 12.3 percent annual rate in April, extending March's modest gains despite consumers' continued reluctance to open their wallets, according to the Federal Reserve's monthly consumer credit report ... (See Consumer credit report: Card balances rise)

Card rates stuck while others drop -- Failure to shop around may be contributing to high credit card interest rates ... (See Card rates stuck)

MasterCard expands fraud protection -- MasterCard is extending its zero-liability policy to more card transactions and dropping restrictions on who is eligible -- putting pressure on Visa to follow suit ... (See Fraud)

FTC calls for data broker regulation -- Depending on your income, habits, health and ethnicity, data brokers may label you an Urban Scramble, Rural Everlasting, Truckin' & Stylin', Bible Lifestyle or Plus-Size Apparel ... (See FTC study)

CFPB: Credit scores for medical debt are unfair -- Study by consumer watchdog agency finds that medical debt collection weighs too heavily on people's credit scores ... (See Medical debt and credit scores)

Credit card balances post spring growth -- Card debt rose in March for the first time in 2014, as consumer spending surged ... (See consumer spending increase 2014)

Judgment-proof debtors have an imperfect shield -- If you are poor enough, a court judgment for debt has little threat. You're "judgment-proof," with wages and belongings shielded by law from collectors -- but that does not mean you can relax ... (See Judgment-proof debtors)

Settling a debt after a judgment -- Even after a judgment is entered against you, it is still possible to settle a debt for less than the court-determined amount -- maybe much less ... (See Settling debt after judgment)

Debt judgment may trigger bankruptcy -- Bankruptcy shields you from debt collectors, but comes with serious consequences that must be weighed ... (See Debt judgments and bankruptcy)

Fighting a default judgment for debt -- In most debt judgments, consumers never got their day in court. Often these one-sided judgments can be erased, giving the debtor another chance to fight the charges ... (See Fighting a debt judgment)

Court judgments for debt: Your options after the gavel -- A court judgment for debt can lead to seizure of wages and property, but there are steps to protect yourself after the decision comes down ... (See Judgments for debt: after the gavel)

Fed takes poor GDP in stride, leaves interest rates outlook unchanged -- The Federal Reserve maintained its course toward higher interest rates in 2015, downplaying a poor first-quarter showing by the economy ... (See Federal Reserve)

Bank of America to refund $727 million in add-on fees -- Bank of America becomes the fifth card-issuing bank to pay a hefty fine for over-hyping debt protection and credit monitoring services ... (See Refund)

Card debt falls in February -- Credit card users cut their balances sharply in February 2014, even as personal income rose, says the Federal Reserve's monthly consumer credit report ... (See Fed consumer credit report)

Wal-Mart sues Visa over swipe fees -- Wal-Mart has sued Visa for anticompetitive practices, targeting Visa's interchange fees or "swipe fees" that help support credit card rewards programs and cash-back deals for cardholder ... (See Wal-Mart sues Visa)

Fed holds course toward higher interest rates -- In the first policy meeting under its new leader, the Federal Reserve affirmed that short-term interest rates will begin rising next year ... (See FOMC meeting)

What an interest rate increase will cost cardholders -- Interest rates, at historic lows since 2008, are expected to start rising as soon as spring 2015, and a single 1 percentage point increase will cost U.S. credit card holders an estimated $7.6 billion a year ... (See Rising rates)

Medical card pays for endorsements -- GE Capital's CareCredit card pays dozens of professional societies to help market its high-rate health care credit card, raising questions that could cloud the doctor-patient relationship ... (See Medical card endorsements)

Card debt falls in January -- Card balances reversed direction and fell in January, as consumers got hit by harsh weather and expiring jobless benefits ... (See Card debt falls)

Cards with free credit scores expand -- More credit cards are providing free credit scores for their cardholders, as regulators and President Obama encourage the practice to fight identity theft ... (See Free scores)

CFPB calls for free credit scores -- The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has urged credit card issuers to make credit scores available to customers for free ... (See Consumers want free credit scores)

Attorney General Holder calls for national data breach disclosure law -- U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said Congress should require businesses to tell customers promptly after hackers steal information ... (See data breaches national policy)

Capital One backs away from invasive debt collection policy -- Capital One will modify controversial terms saying it can visit cardholders, and denied spoofing its number on caller ID systems ... (See Capital One debt collections)

Surprise! Many credit card agreements allow repossession -- An analysis of the federal database of credit cards finds dozens include a 'security interest' clause that leaves the door open to the repo man ... (See Repossession)

Fed: Card balances leap in December -- Credit card balances rose even more than usual for the holiday season, posting a third month of growth ... (See Fed: Card balances rise a 3rd month)

Discover expands free FICO credit score program -- Discover cardholders will not only get a free credit score on their monthly statements, they'll have it explained to them, the company announced ... (See Free FICO)

Fed: banks keep tight grip on card loans -- Senior loan officers survey says demand for credit cards is greater than supply ... (See Demand for credit cards)

Mid-Atlantic complains most about credit card problems -- Washington, D.C., and neighboring states file the most complaints per capita about credit cards with the federal consumer financial regulator ... (See Complaints)

Fed holds off on rate increases -- The Federal Reserve announced no change in the short-term rates that affect credit card APRs and signaled that hikes will start beyond 2014 ... (See Federal Reserve)

CFPB: Credit card complaints decline in 2013 -- Consumers filed fewer complaints about credit cards with the federal consumer watchdog in 2013, but two big card issuers saw an increase in grumbles ... (See Complaints)

Fed: Card balances rise again -- Credit card balances bulged in November for a second month, as consumers' spending increased faster than their paychecks rose, the Federal Reserve said ... (See Card balances rise)

Credit card late fees could rise in 2014 -- The CFPB has added $1 to the amount that first-time offenders can be charged for a late credit card payment, raising it to $26 ... (See credit card late payment fees)

Fed: Banks modestly lower barriers to credit cards -- Banks are swinging open their vault doors wider for businesses, but consumers are seeing only slightly easier access to loans -- including credit cards ... (See Credit cards)

Credit card balances rise in March -- Consumers added credit card debt in March amid growing incomes and an improving job climate ... (See G.19)

AmEx makes refunds for add-on products -- Regulators ordered American Express to pay back customers for deceptive marketing and unfair billing of ID theft and identity protection products ... (See AmEx refunds add-on products)

Fed payments study: Signature cards more prone to fraud -- Credit cards and signature debit cards are the payment methods most susceptible to fraud, with online transactions at highest risk, the Federal Reserve said ... (See Fraud)

Fed starts 'taper,' begins weaning off support for low rates -- The Federal Reserve voted to pump less cash into low long-term rates, but held constant the short-term rates that set credit card APRs ... (See long-term and short-term rates)

CFPB report: Biggest card issuers push consumers into arbitration -- Few consumers use the dispute resolution format favored by banks, says a new report by the federal consumer watchdog ... (See Arbitration report)

CareCredit ordered to refund $34 million to cardholders -- GE Capital and its CareCredit unit agreed to refund $34.1 million to medical patients who got faulty information when they signed up for deferred interest cards ... (See CareCredit)

Fed: Credit card balances shot up October -- Consumers "tuned out the drama in DC" and went shopping in October, boosting credit card balances at an annualized rate of 6 percent, the Federal Reserve reported ... (See G.19 consumer credit report, October 2013)

Card issuers soften mandatory arbitration rules -- Signing away your right to go to court is part of most credit card agreements, but the CFPB is taking a look at mandatory arbitration requirements ... (See Arbitration)

FICO credit-score giveaway coming to Discover cardholders -- Discover's the latest bank to add free credit score access as a routine service, completing the route of the once-secret three-digit number to full public view ... (See Credit scores)

NY Fed: Household debt rise marks a 'turning point' -- Households increased their debt load in the third quarter by the largest amount since early 2008, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York ... (See Fed report: Borrowing returns)

How to use the grace period to avoid paying interest -- Taking advantage of the grace period's break on interest charges can save the typical card user a couple hundred bucks a year, but the savings aren't automatic ... (See Grace period)

Credit card balances extend their slide -- Credit card balances fell for a fourth month in a row in September, according to the Federal Reserve's monthly report on consumer credit ... (See G.19 consumer debt report, September 2013)

Fed: banks loosen credit limts -- Banks aren't rushing to grant more credit cards to new applicants, but they are being more generous about expanding credit limits ... (See Banks expand credit limits)

New complaint data zings credit bureaus -- Federal complaint data shows that consumers are often dissatisfied -- even when credit bureaus say they have addressed the problem ... (See Credit bureau complaints)

Fed keeps its foot on the gas -- The Federal Reserve's interest rate setting committee decided to maintain its measures aimed at keeping interest rates at historic lows ... (See Fed leaves rates alone)

After loan default, how bad can it get? -- Courts are setting higher standards for debt buyers to prove their right to charge you interest after a bank has written off your debt ... (See Charged-off debt)

Government shutdown obstructs credit card applications -- The government shutdown has cut off IRS income verification services that lenders use to approve loans, including some credit cards ... (See Shutdown hits card apps)

Card debt fell in August -- Credit card balances were down in August for the third straight month, according to the Federal Reserve ... (See Card debt falls)

CFPB widens its debt settlement crackdown -- The U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau fined a service provider for handling illegal debt settlement fees, marking an expansion in its crackdown on scammers ... (See CFPB)

Credit CARD Act: Round 2 coming? -- A report from the federal consumer financial regulator says the CARD Act has cut gotcha-type fees, but other problems continue, and need to be addressed ... (See CARD Act report)

Study: CARD Act cut fees $20 billion -- A study of 150 million credit card accounts found that the CARD Act of 2009 cut fees sharply for cardholders, and subprime borrowers saw the most savings ... (See CARD Act study)

FTC says :( to debt collection text messages -- The FTC has brought its first case against a debt collector for using text messages, sending a message of its own about what collectors can and can't do ... (See FTC)

Feds fine Chase, order $309 million refund for credit card add-ons -- The megabank took the money for, but did not deliver, the credit monitoring add-on product it sold to its credit card customers, federal regulators say ... (See Chase refund)

Subprime borrowers have easier time getting car loans -- Unlike with credit cards, auto loans are becoming more available for borrowers with blemished credit ... (See Auto loans)

Fed maintains support for low interest rates -- The Fed left short-term rates that govern credit card APRs unchanged at near-zero levels. It also voted to maintain current support for low long-term rates such as mortgages, defying analysts' expectations ... (See FOMC)

Fed: Card balances fell in July -- Credit card balances fell in July, a time of sluggish consumer spending and languid job growth, the Federal Reserve reported. ... (See G.19)

CFPB: Consumers' side of credit disputes must be considered -- Federal regulators issued a stern warning for information furnishers to investigate disputed credit report data: Look at a consumer's side of the story ... (See CFPB)

Many pay an unexpected price for deferred-interest deals -- About one in five people who sign up for "no interest" deals on big-ticket items actually wind up owing finance charges on their store credit card ... (See Deferred interest trap)

NY Fed: debt squeeze eases on households -- While borrowing on cards increased, credit limits grew faster in the second quarter, leaving cardholders with more available spending power ... (See Debt and credit report)

Fed: Card balances fell in June -- Credit card balances were down in June, pulling back from a strong upward surge the month before, despite an increase in consumer spending ... (See G.19)

Fed: banks ease up on credit limits -- Banks remain wary about issuing new cards but are easing their grip on credit limits, the Federal Reserve's survey of bank loan officers reported ... (See Credit limits eased)

Swipe fee battle renewed after court ruling -- Merchants won a victory in their long-running battle with banks over debit card swipe fees, potentially raising consumer costs for checking-related services ... (See Merchant comsumer debit fees)

Credit reports now show your credit card bill-paying habits -- Credit bureaus add a new section to credit reports showing whether you carry a credit card balance, giving card issuers and others a more detailed portrait of your financial habits ... (See Credit reports)

CFPB provides debt collection sample letters -- The U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau issues five sample letters to help consumers practice self-defense against unfair debt collection practices ... (See Debt collection sample letters)

Watchdog agency opens doors to complaints about debt collectors -- The government's consumer watchdog issued warning notices to the collection industry about illegal tactics on the day it began taking complaints about collectors ... (See Debt collection)

Card delinquencies hit 22-year low -- Credit card delinquencies hit their lowest levels since June 1990 during the first quarter of this year, reflecting a stronger economy and more frugal consumers, the American Bankers Association said. ... (See low credit card delinquent accounts)

Average credit card debt statistics -- Depending on how the average is measured and who's doing the measuring, Americans are either doing pretty well when it comes to managing our credit cards, or horribly ... (See Average card debt)

Fed: Credit card balances spike in May -- Balances on credit cards were up in May, the Fed reported, as jobs and home values showed strength ... (See credit card balances up)

Average American expects to be debt free by age 53 -- Americans are optimistic about achieving a clean slate before retirement, but 1 in 10 expects to never be independent of debt ... (See Debt-free)

Fed signals that rate hikes remain in distant future -- The Federal Open Market Committee voted to keep interest rates at ultra-low levels amid speculation that stimulus measures are nearing a turning point ... (See rates remain low)

Credit CARD Act: The next generation -- The federal watchdog agency is reviewing the 2009 law's impact; consumer groups are urging a host of fixes, enhancements ... (See Post-CARD Act)

Fed: Card balances ticked up in April -- Balances on credit cards rose in April, marking a rebound from March, amid signs of improvement in jobs and housing. ... (See Card balances rise)

Credit report complaints highlight errors -- One out of five people who complained about their credit reports said they contain information that does not belong to them, according to newly released figures ... (See Credit report errors)

People are managing cards better, survey finds -- Americans are getting better at paying off their credit card bills and avoiding interest charges, but about a third are still struggling to pay more than the minimum ... (See Financial survey)

FTC targets cash-reload code scams -- The FTC has proposed banning telemarketers from taking payments via cash reload codes that are used to fund prepaid cards. The codes make it too easy for fraudsters to take cash without leaving a trace ... (See Cash reload)

NY Fed: Credit card balances reach new low -- Consumers resumed paying down their card balances in the first quarter of 2013, the New York Fed reported, and delinquencies improved ... (See NY Fed)

California blasts Chase for robo-signing -- California's attorney general accused Chase Bank of using false documents in court cases to collect credit card debts ... (See Chase robo-signing suit)

Infographic: How Robo-signing works in credit card debt -- When creditors mechanically and automatically certify that credit card debt is real without any documentary evidence, it's called robo-signing, and the practice is both widespread and controversial ... (See Robo-signing credit card debt)

Fed holds line on interest rates -- The Federal Reserve's rate-setting committee voted to continue its low-rate policy in the face of stubborn unemployment ... (See Federal Reserve low intrest rate)

CFPB changes stay-at-home spouse rule -- The federal government's consumer agency has finalized a rule change to make it easier for nonworking, stay-at-home spouses to get their own credit cards ... (See Stay-at-home spouses)

Card add-on products stage a comeback -- Add-on services like payment protection are expected to rebound from regulators' smackdown ... (See Card add-ons)

Feds crack down on payday loans, deposit advances -- Banks and storefront lenders will face new rules on small-dollar loans to protect borrowers ... (See Payday loan rules)

Fed study: Recession really changed our spending habits -- We didn't just have our credit cards taken away during the recession, we gave them up. So says a new New York Fed study, which says the historic drop in debt was at least partly the result of households tightening their belts ... (See Fed study)

Robo-signed collection cases under fire -- Practices that let debt buyers win collection judgments with just hurriedly signed affidavits appear headed for a major overhaul ... (See Robo-signed debt collection)

GAO: ATM surcharges climbing -- The average ATM surcharge at banks and credit unions is up 20 percent since 2007, not counting inflation, a GAO report says ... (See GAO study: ATM surcharges up 20%)

Fed: Card balances rise in February -- Credit card balances rose in February as consumer spending increased, despite the specter of pending budget cuts ... (See credit card balances up)

When to pay off old debt -- There can be good reasons to repay a debt even after it is too old for you to be sued over -- but you could create a new headache if you're not careful ... (See Old debt)

Expiration dates fuzzy on old card debt -- Card issuers' rules and conflicting legal rulings laws make it tough to tell when a consumer's debt ages past the statute of limitations ... (See Uncollectible debt)

How to tell when card debt legally expires -- The statute of limitations in your state is a starting point to tell if a debt is too old to be dragged in front of a judge ... (See Debt legally expires)

Federal Reserve stays the course on interest rates -- The Federal Open Market Committee reaffirmed that ultra-low interest rates will continue in an effort to spur job growth ... (See Federal Reserve low interest rate job growth)

Consumer bureau faces court challenge -- A court ruling calls into question the recess appointment of CFPB director Richard Cordray, but experts expect a political solution ... (See Consumer Financial Protection Bureau)

Fed: Card balances rise in January -- Credit card balances rose in January, as a fiscal cliff cut in take-home pay and higher prices at gasoline pumps caused consumers to lean more on their plastic ... (See credit card balances up)

Credit card complaints zing companies -- Newly published complaint data give a look at card issuers' relationships with customers -- and which companies are likely to pay back a customer with a gripe ... (See Most complaints)

2012 credit card complaints reveal trouble hot spots -- Complaints sent to new federal database paint a nationwide mosaic of misery, and the complainingest people tend to have comfortably high incomes ... (See Card complaints)

Bankers' group says CARD Act raised rates, lowered credit access -- The 3-year-old federal credit card reform law is a mixed bag, banking lobby group says, but hurt consumers access to credit and raised rates ... (See CARD Act impact)

Executive pay at credit counseling agencies -- Their clients are at the brink of bankruptcy, but executives at some of the largest nonprofit credit counseling agencies are in the top 1 percent of U.S. earners ... (See CEO salaries at credit counseling agencies)

Feds bust sophisticated credit card ring that stole $200 million -- In a massive manipulation of the credit card system, a New Jersey-based fraud ring stole more than $200 million by creating 7,000 false identities and 25,000 bogus cards ... (See Credit card fraud)

Credit counseling agencies get bigger, but are they any better? -- A wave of consolidation is rapidly transforming credit counseling from locally based agencies to national call centers ... (See Big credit counseling agencies get bigger - but better?)

Choosing a credit counseling agency: 6 tips -- Nonprofit credit counseling agencies are bound by rules that guard against abuses. But some agencies can work better for you than others ... (See Credit counselors)

The business of credit counseling -- Nonprofit credit counselors benefit from a solid reputation but clients face high dropout rates and difficulty getting information ... (See Credit counselors)

Compare 4 choices for debt relief -- People who need help getting out from under debt have a number of choices, each with some advantages and pitfalls. Here's an overview ... (See 4 debt relief choices)

Top 10 consumer credit counseling agencies -- Slideshow lists the 10 largest nonprofit consumer credit counseling agencies in the U.S. by revenue; their top executives, and executive pay ... (See Credit counselors)

FTC: Debt collectors go hunting with skimpy info for debtors -- About 1 million U.S. consumers a year dispute debts, says a new FTC report, and no wonder: Collectors often have little info on what is owed ... (See Collectors' skimpy info)

Credit card surcharges now allowed, but retailers hesitate -- A court settlement gives retailers the right to recover "swipe fees" by charging extra for credit card use starting Jan. 27, but will they? ... (See Credit card surcharges)

Military gets tougher protections against high-rate loans -- Congress creates new enforcement powers for law that protects soldiers from high-rate loans ... (See Military)

Consumer bureau begins new look at credit card rules -- The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau launched a call for comments as part of a study on the Credit CARD Act of 2009 ... (See CARD Act review) Weekly Card Rates Report: Rates hold steady while consumer debt burden drops -- Interest rates on credit card offers held steady at 14.96 percent for a seventh week, according to the Weekly Credit Card Rate Report. ... (See Rate report)

Are overdrafts on prepaid cards a good deal or a debt trap? -- Overdraft programs on prepaid cards are sneaky, high-cost loans that should be outlawed, consumer advocates say. But some customers of the card company NetSpend couldn't disagree more ... (See Prepaid card overdraft)

FTC cracks down on mobile apps for kids -- Games and other mobile apps aimed at kids have come under fire for sharing information and allowing in-app charges without adequate disclosure ... (See Kids' mobile apps)

Your fiscal cliff: What to do now to prepare for a financial fall -- If we fall off a 'fiscal cliff,' do you know where you would land? Here's what to do now to prepare and soften the impact of expiring tax breaks, spending cuts ... (See Fiscal cliff)

Fiscal cliff calculator: figure your income tax hit -- This calculator lets you see what your federal income and Social Security taxes are now, and what they will be if we fall off the 'fiscal cliff' ... (See Fiscal cliff calculator)

Veterans face fiscal cliff -- In addition to the loss of pay, service members coming off active duty as the military shrinks will no longer be eligible for interest rate caps under the Servicemembers' Civil Relief Act ... (See Veterans)

Reduction seen in lawsuits against debt collectors -- For the first time since at least 2004, consumers will bring fewer lawsuits in federal courts this year alleging debt collector abuses ... (See Debt lawsuits)

How to successfully sue a debt collector -- The same law that sets boundaries on collectors' behavior gives you the right to sue them when they ignore the rules. Follow these tips from lawyers to help prove that you were wronged ... (See Debt collection)

Election results strengthen consumer protection -- Election wins by President Barack Obama and consumer rights firebrand Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts strengthen the hand of the fledgling Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, policy analysts said ... (See 2012 election)

FTC takes aim at 'robocall' scams -- The FTC announced a crackdown on robocalling violations amid a surge in complaints about the annoying and sometimes costly practice ... (See Telemarketing robocalls)

Put your credit report on ice with a credit freeze -- Credit freezes can be great tools for protecting yourself against identity theft, experts say, but they're not for everyone ... (See Credit freeze)

How to replace a lost, stolen gift card (or return an unwanted one) -- The reason so many of us love gift cards -- they're a lot like cash -- is also the reason they can be hard to replace when they're stolen or lost. However, there are steps you can take to reclaim that moolah ... (See Returning, replacing gift cards)

Statutes of limitation for credit card debt collection, all 50 states -- Creditors have a limited time in which to file suit over unpaid credit card debt. Here are the statutes of limitation for all 50 states, plus the District of Columbia ... (See Statutes of limitation for credit card debt)

Credit card arbitration: What it is, how it works -- Many large credit cards and most store cards require you to bring disputes to an arbitrator, an alternative to court, if you can't reach a solution with the company ... (See Credit card arbitration)

Forgiven credit card debt is often taxable: 1099-C forms follow debt settlement -- Tax attorneys and consumer advocates say many consumers aren't aware that forgiven credit card debt may be taxable income on a 1099-C form ... (See 1099-C form: Forgiven debt)

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