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Issuers offer new tools to aid, educate credit cardholders

New websites target consumers who are struggling to make payments

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HelpWithMyCredit.org
Spend Analyzer screenshot


Click to enlarge. Source: HelpWithMyCredit.org

The lending industry may have played a major role in leading us into the current financial crisis, but when it comes to consumers' personal finances, credit card issuers want you to know they are here to help out.

In an effort to provide support to troubled consumers, credit card issuers and payment networks announced today's launch of Help With My Credit, a resource aimed at "providing information and resources to assist and educate customers struggling to make their credit card payments." The participating card issuers include Bank of America, Capital One, Citi, Discover, as well as payment networks MasterCard, Visa.

Along with HelpWithMyCredit.org, which features information on credit card basics, understanding your credit score, reading your credit card statement and more, the companies are offering a toll-free telephone hotline -- (866) 941-1030 -- where callers are greeted by a live operator who can direct them to the appropriate card company's customer service department or, in more difficult situations, to an accredited credit counseling agency.

The introduction of Help With My Credit comes at a time when both banks and cardholders require help to stem a surge in unpaid debts. Immediate action is needed as banks' rate of charge-offs -- when credit card lenders give up on collecting a debt from a cardholder and remove it from their accounts -- has risen sharply to 7.5 percent, according to a February report from Fitch Ratings. That same report projects the situation could worsen, with charge-offs topping the 8 percent mark in coming months and nearing 9 percent during the latter half of 2009.

Discover.com's Spend Analyzer
Spend Analyzer screenshot


Click to enlarge. Source: Discover.com

Help With My Credit isn't the only recently introduced credit card resource that seeks to aid cardholders with their finances. 

On Feb. 17, Discover announced the launch of its Spend Analyzer tool, which allows cardholders to view their spending patterns in the form of pie charts and bar graphs, as well as to compare their spending patterns over time. Instead of requiring Discover cardholders to input their personal data, the Spend Analyzer "automatically gathers card members' personal card spending information," according to a Discover press release.

Elsewhere, Citi recently shared a list of tips for consumers looking to "recession-proof" their credit. Those suggestions include: talking to your credit card issuer about any financial troubles, establishing temporary payment options that the card issuer may make available to you (such as lower monthly payments, reduced interest rates and waived late fees and over-the-limit charges), using free online tools to stay aware of due dates or set up automatic payments and learning more about credit and financial management at Citi's UseCreditWisely.com.  

See related: Report: Credit card late payments hit record high

Updated: March 30, 2009


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