Credit Card Penalty Fees Fall for Third Straight Year

Credit Card Penalty Fees Fall for Third Straight Year

A new report shows consumers paid $17.8 billion in penalty fees on their credit cards last year, an 8 percent decline from the $19.4 billion in 2011.

According to the R.K. Hammer Card Penalty Fee Index, fees have fallen for three consecutive years, ever since the CARD Act was passed in May of 2009. That legislation put restrictions on the dollar amount of late fees and prohibited issuers from automatically charging an over-the-limit fee when a cardholder exceeded the credit limit; that fee can only be charged if a consumer "opts in" to allow these transactions to go through and pay the penalty.

Penalty fees reached $23.9 billion in 2009, but fell 6 percent in 2010 ($22.5 billion), 14 percent in 2011 ($19.4 billion) and now 8 percent in 2012.

While this is good news for consumers, issuers have found other ways to generate revenue that has been lost on penalty fees. According to the Hammer report, this includes fees for replacement cards, paper statements, inactive accounts and customer service calls after the customer makes a certain number of calls in one billing cycle.

Additional fees may be on the way in the future.

"We know of no card issuer not presently weighing its fee pricing options, or implementing higher/new fees, where permissible," said the company's chief executive, Bob Hammer, in a statement. "By how much and how soon, of course, varies widely by issuer and their respective strategy."