New Legislation Protects and Benefits the Consumer

Relatively speaking, it’s been a good month for the United States’ consumer! From home buyer tax credits, to unemployment benefits, to bank overdraft fees, to gift cards…someone is looking out for your best interest!

New Home Buyer Tax Credit

Congress has passed new legislation that extends the first time home buyers tax credit, and expands it to include more home buyers:

  • Extends the First-Time Home Buyer Tax Credit of up to $8,000 to first-time home buyers until April 30, 2010.
  • Expands the credit to grant up to $6,500 to current home owners (who have been residing in their primary residence for 5 of the last 8 years) purchasing a new or existing home between November 7, 2009 and April 30, 2010.
  • Increases the income eligibility limits to claim the full credit amount (for both groups of home buyers) to $125,000 for individuals and $225,000 for couples. Both credits are limited to home purchases of $800,000 or less.

The extension was part of a bill that also extends unemployment benefits for 20 more weeks for states with high jobless rates.

Bank Overdraft Fees

“The Federal Reserve last week also announced a rule, to take effect July 1, under which banks would have to secure their customers’ consent before charging large overdraft fees on ATM and debit card transactions.” Associated Press; essentially you will have to opt in to the overdraft service, other wise your card will simply be denied for lack of funds.

There are even further restrictions currently being considered by both the House and Senate: Senator Chris “Dodd’s legislation would allow consumers to “opt-in” for overdraft protection on ATM and debit card transactions when they open an account. It would also limit the number of overdraft fees a bank can charge per month and year, require that fees be proportional to the cost of processing the overdraft and require that customers be notified when they overdraw their account so they don’t make further uncovered transactions. Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., has proposed similar legislation in the House.” – Associated Press

Gift Cards

“The Federal Reserve Board on Monday [Nov 16, 09] announced proposed rules that would restrict the fees and expiration dates that may apply to gift cards. The rules would protect consumers from certain unexpected costs and would require that gift card terms and conditions be clearly stated.

The proposed rules would prohibit dormancy, inactivity, and service fees on gift cards unless: (1) there has been at least one year of inactivity on the certificate or card; (2) no more than one such fee is charged per month; and (3) the consumer is given clear and conspicuous disclosures about the fees. Expiration dates for funds underlying gift cards must be at least five years after the date of issuance, or five years after the date when funds were last loaded.” – excerpt from a press release by the Federal Reserve

Be encouraged…and God bless the United States of America!