“Comparison sites only show products with which they have an economic relationship,” said David Silberman, a senior fellow at the nonprofit Center for Responsible Lending. The sites can be useful, he said, as long as consumers understand the limitations. “It’s not objective advice.”
The bureau’s move is part of its effort to promote consumer-friendly card practices, like lower fees for late payments. But banks are resisting the bureau’s new approach, calling it too vague.
The American Bankers Association asked the agency in a March 13 letter to give up its current plan and start over. The association also asked the bureau to “explain its apparent ambition to create a C.F.P.B.-run credit card comparison platform with sufficient detail to allow commenters to evaluate such a proposal.”
Consumer advocates say that the idea of a bureau-run comparison tool is promising but that the specifics remain to be seen.
“Certainly, it’s helpful to have that information from an unbiased source,” said Chi Chi Wu, senior staff attorney with the National Consumer Law Center. But an ideal comparison tool, she said, would allow consumers to compare a true “effective” interest rate that reflects the card’s rate along with the impact of any fees, like annual fees, late fees, balance transfer fees and cash advance fees.
Information about a card issuer’s typical practices would also be helpful, Ms. Wu said. For instance, a card’s posted late fee may be $30, but the issuer may be willing to waive it if you aren’t drastically overdue. “If you ask,” she said, “will they take it off?”
Here are some questions and answers about credit cards:
When will the consumer bureau make the expanded card information available online?
The bureau said that it began collecting the new details the week of March 21 and that the deadline for issuers to supply them is April 20, but it did not specify when they would be available to the public. The bureau said in an email that getting the information to the public as soon as it could was “a priority.”