Rising EMIs for housing loans have hogged the headlines because of the pain experienced by home owners, who had borrowed in a benign interest rate regime. But not paying the credit card bills in full has also become costlier, though with far less visibility.
A sharp hike in interest rates by credit card companies in the past few months has gone almost unnoticed. Most of the major card issuers including ICICI Bank, SBI Card and other leading players have increased interest rates by 3-5% over the past 2-3 months.
Credit card companies charge interest if a customer carries forward credit beyond the payment cycle. The monthly rate could be between 1% and 3.4%, translating to 12-42% on an annual basis. With overall interest rates rising, card companies have also affected a hike.
ICICI Bank, the largest issuer of credit cards with over 7.5 million live cards, has hiked interest rates from 2.9% to 3.15%. This translates into an annual increase of almost 3%.
"We have increased the interest rates on credit cards last month, which will be effective for the billing from August. Impact on the consumers will be known only in September. The hike is a consequence of the general tightening of interest rates and most big players have already done it. ICICI was in fact the last to do it," said Sachin Khandelwal, head of ICICI Banks cards portfolio.
SBI Cards, the JV between SBI and GE Money and the second-largest issuer of cards in India, has also increased rates. However, the company has different rates based on parameters like spending and payment behaviour. The charges have gone up from 2.99% to 3.1%.
"SBI Cards charges interest rates ranging from 0.99-3.1% depending on the spending pattern and payment behaviour of the consumer," SBI Cards & Payment Services CEO Roopam Ashthana said.
Experts say, other major credit card issuers have also hiked rates in line with leading players. With some companies not mentioning the interest rate charged on the monthly statements sent out to customers, these rate hikes often go unnoticed by consumers. However, some companies do send out advisories.
"All applicants are advised of the maximum interest rate chargeable at the time of application, at the time of card issuance and thereafter every month in their credit card statement," Mr Ashthana said. Provision for a change in interest rates is provided for in the terms and conditions given to a consumer at the time of issue of card.
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