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The Importance of Understanding Credit Card Privacy Policies

The Importance of Understanding Credit Card Privacy Policies

Despite the recent credit card reform that makes contracts easier for consumers to understand, many people do not invest the time to read them, risking their privacy, information, and potential financial integrity in the process.

Every year credit card carrying Americans receive an annual notice regarding the privacy policies of their particular issuing institution, thanks to the Gramm-Leach-Biley Financial Modernization Act of 1999. This notice usually comes sometime in the summer because it was first mandated for compliance in July of 2001.

According to the Act, all financial institutions (including both banks and credit card issuers) are required to send their customers an updated notice that plainly describes which personal information their institution collects, how each particular company protects said information, how they intend to use or share this information, and how customers can opt of the sharing process.

According to Paul Stephens, the director of policy and advocacy with the Privacy Rights Clearing House

there are relatively new short form notices that are being utilized by financial institutions that make it a lot easier to understand exactly what you can and cannot opt out of.

Before these new measures, understanding credit card policies was somewhat confusing, but even though these new annual statements have been simplified, the base policies are still somewhat difficult for consumers to understand. The Gramm-Leach-Biley Act, for example, still does not restore full control to consumers regarding what information is shared.

Consumer Privacy Rights

The Gramm-Leach-Biley Act describes that consumers have the option to not share their personal information with non-related third parties that do not belong to the same corporation or affiliated group, but there are some limitations:

  • This Act excludes information that you have shared with affiliates within your financial institution, so you cannot opt out of information sharing from two different policies from the same company (like if your bank and mortgage company are owned by the same people, you cannot opt out of one or the other).
  • Consumers do not have the inherent right of opting out of anything that is considered to be public information, ie: anything that can be obtained through public or government records, through published websites, or through other forms of existing media.
  • This Act also excludes opting out of information that could be shared between your financial institution and the companies with which they have marketing agreements.

Obviously, there is a great deal of benefit for sharing your information with other companies so you need, as a consumer, to be sure of these privacy policies and that you also enforce them as well. You can also take advantage of these incentives by sharing your good credit score, for example, throughout your financial institutions vast network in order to shop around for better interest rates and other offers.

Having More Control

Obviously, when you better understand how a contract works you have more control of how it works. It is particularly important, though, in terms of your credit card privacy policy, to be proactive. When your next update comes in the mail (and it should be soon) do not throw it away as you may have been inclined to do in the past. Instead, you need to open it and read it. Privacy policies change, but so do credit card products.

That means that you may find you no longer like the policy of your existing card but you will find another one with better features and a more attractive policy. If you are being proactive, you can also call your credit card company to get all of the information you need regarding their update so that you can make the best possible decision about your financial integrity.

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