What the Financial Overhaul Bill Can and Can’t Do for Atlanta Consumers

It was years in the making, but it looks the financial reform bill is finally on its way to becoming a reality. The question now is, how much will it actually reform - especially for those of us overwhelmed by debt?

You've probably heard about how the overhaul aims to reorganize the financial system to avoid another economic meltdown like the one that began almost two years ago. But that's not all, say Atlanta bankruptcy attorneys. If it passes, these changes will have an effect on consumers as well, from how we understand our credit card bill to how we pay for things at the store. What won't necessarily change, though, is whether or not we're able to overhaul our own finances.

Sure, it will help. Take the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, for instance - a group created to, you guessed it, protect consumers. The bureau is said to be able to make new laws and ban unfair practices, like fine print on your credit card rules.

Or how about the limit placed on the amount banks can collect from businesses in credit card transactions? Currently, many smaller retailers and restaurants don't allow credit - or charge a fee for it - because credit card companies take such a big chunk of sales. When their fees are lowered, they'll be more likely to allow credit purchases - increasing convenience during those times when all you have is plastic. And maybe most significantly, the bill might finally make getting your credit card score - not just an annual credit report - free.

That's what the bill can do. Now, here's what you can do. Check your credit card statement, and those account updates that come in the mail (they might look like junk mail, but they're not). Fine print or not, your best shot at avoiding fees and penalties is to be aware of your spending habits and your creditor's rules. Next, try to avoid using credit cards for small purchases - carry some cash instead. That way you won't have to have to worry about whether or not a restaurant takes plastic - and you won't end up doing something ridiculous, like paying interest on that Chinese takeout you had one night last year.

Lastly, keep an eye on your credit score - but keep a closer eye on your credit behavior. If you're regularly making late payments or exceeding your credit limit, you don't need a number to tell you your credit is suffering. What you need is to make changes in your financial habits - and getting out of debt is a good place to start. Worried you have too much debt to manage on your own? Find out if bankruptcy can rebuild your finances - with or without a reform bill - when you sign up for our free personal debt analysis, courtesy of an Atlanta bankruptcy attorney.

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