ARLINGTON, Va. –, a Web site which tracks differentcard trends, has reported that big card issuers have once againhiked their so-called “penalty” annual percentage rates which theysay they reserve only for cardholders who miss payments. Cardwebreported that these APRs had increased from an average of 23.26% inApril 2001 to an average of 25.88% for last month. Since many ofthese rates are variable, any future increases in the prime ratewill drive these rates even higher, in some cases above 30%, thesite reported, adding that over the past three years the primeinterest rate has dropped from 8.00% to 4.00%, thereby raising thespread of these punitive rates by more than six percentage rates,from 15.26% to 21.88%. The big card issuers have also steadilyexpanded their definition of what can bring a cardholder into the“penalty” APR, the site reported. Bank One recently raised theinterest rate on a employee from 14.24% to 27.74% dueto “bankcard balances increased to (sic) fast” and “balances onbankcard are too high,” the site reported. The employee had no latepayments or over-limit infractions with any creditors. According tothe site, Providian charges the highest punitive interest rate of29.99% or prime +25.99%. MBNA, a leading buyer of credit union cardportfolios, does not disclose its penalty APRs on applications butrecently raised its penalty APR to 24.99%, the site reported.

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