On Monday, February 22nd, the Credit Card Act of 2009 takes effect, outlawing several of the most egregious practices of the credit card companies. Can you finally relax? C'mon-by now you know better than that!

True, your interest rate can no longer suddenly skyrocket, and a misstep with one card will no longer poison your others. There are several valuable and important protections in the Act. But keep your ear to the ground and your eyes on the mail: even as you read this, the creative old dogs at the credit card companies are inventing tricks to extract money from you. They think they have to. The Act will cost them, by their reckoning, billions-and they want that revenue back.

So watch your mail and be extra sure to read any notification the companies send you. New annual fees (for formerly free cards) are in the offing or already announced, and that's just the tip of the iceberg. Inactivity fees (a price you pay for not using your card!), higher minimum finance charges, increased late payment penalties, higher transfer and cash advance fees-they're all coming. Just read any notification you get, and, if you can't stomach a new fee, call the company and ask that they cancel it. If they won't, consider switching cards. CardRatings.com will keep you current on the terms and relative advantages of individual card types.

If you and your credit card are still attached at the hip, we're offering a free video that reveals how three everyday women awoke from their debt nightmares and found financial and emotional freedom. For access, click here.

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