Corporate cards for consumers?

By Jennifer Liberto, senior writer


WASHINGTON (CNNMoney.com) -- Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., is worried that credit card issuers are making it too easy for consumers to get corporate cards, which are exempt from tougher new laws.

Schumer wrote a letter to the chairman of the Federal Reserve, Ben Bernanke, asking the central bank to look into the marketing practices of such cards to consumers who don't need them.

"I believe that credit card issuers are exploiting this distinction in order to evade the tougher regulations passed by Congress and preserve their ability to profit from unfair and excessive fees," Schumer wrote.

Calls to banking groups about the issue weren't immediately returned.

This year, three rounds of new credit card laws went into effect, making it more difficult for card issuers to charge excessive late fees or hike interest rates based on whether a cardholder is late making a payment on credit cards or other bills. But the new laws only impact consumer credit cards, not corporate cards.

Several consumer groups say they're concerned that card issuers have an incentive to steer consumers into these corporate cards. And the hurdles for consumers getting corporate cards have never been very high, to make it easier for small business owners and entrepreneurs to access short-term credit.

One consumer group, the Center for Responsible Lending, says it has seen evidence of a corporate card application getting a makeover, which appears to make it easier to apply for that corporate card.

The application asked for very little "required" corporate information, meaning it was possible for a consumer to apply for the card without actually owning a business, said Joshua Frank, a senior analyst for the Center for Responsible Lending, a nonprofit advocacy group.

"I did see one example," said Frank, who declined to name the company. "I wouldn't be surprised if more issuers are doing this, because if they want to circumvent the new rules. It makes sense."

In his letter, Schumer also asked the Fed to create new rules for corporate cards that would make it clearer to consumers that they aren't unknowingly applying for one.

He suggested the Fed could also make it more difficult for consumers to get a business credit card by requiring such cards to collect a tax identification number on applications. To top of page

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