New CFPB rule caps banks' credit card late fees at $8

Rohit Chopra, director of the CFPB, testifies during the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee hearing titled "The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's Semi-Annual Report to Congress," in the Dirksen Building on Nov. 30, 2023.Tom Williams | Cq-roll Call, Inc. | Getty Images

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau unveiled a new rule on Tuesday that it said would cap the typical late fee that banks charge customers at $8 per incident.

By cutting late fees to $8 from an average of around $32, more than 45 million card users would save an average of $220 annually, the CFPB said in a release.

The new rule, long expected after an initial proposal was floated early last year, comes after the agency said it reviewed market data related to the 2009 Card Act. Regulations tied to that law granted card issuers the ability to charge ever-increasing amounts of late fees.

"For over a decade, credit card giants have been exploiting a loophole to harvest billions of dollars in junk fees from American consumers," CFPB Director Rohit Chopra said in the release. "Today's rule ends the era of big credit card companies hiding behind the excuse of inflation when they hike fees on borrowers and boost their own bottom lines."

New CFPB rule caps banks' credit card late fees at $8

The announcement is the latest salvo in President Joe Biden's war against so-called junk fees.

The big banks that issue credit cards have been raising the cost of late penalties since 2010, and the fees exceeded $14 billion in 2022, according to the CFPB. The industry profits from customers with low credit scores, who rack up an average of $138 annually in late fees per card, said Chopra.

The rule, which applies to card issuers with at least one million open accounts, also ends automatic inflation adjustments on late fees.

Instead, the agency said it would adjust the fee if needed to cover collection costs, and that card issuers can charge higher fees if they prove they are necessary. The rule doesn't directly affect interest rates, the CFPB said.

An industry group criticized the CFPB rule on Tuesday, saying that many card users will see higher interest rates and reduced credit availability. The group also questioned the process by which the rule was issued. The CFPB says Congress granted it the authority to administer the Card Act.

"The rule's policy goals are, at best, consumer redistribution, not consumer protection," Consumer Bankers Association head Lindsey Johnson said in a statement. "Equally concerning is that this rule continues the CFPB's deeply problematic practice of rushing to prioritize headlines at the expense of legal process."

Another industry group, the American Bankers Association, said it is considering options to push back against the CFPB's rules.

In a release, Republican Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina said he would lean on the Congressional Review Act to fight implementation of the late fee cap.

The rule goes into effect 60 days after its publication in the Federal Register, the CFPB said.

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