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House OKs bill cracking down on late payments

Have a habit of paying your credit card payments late?

Watch out, the Utah House on Friday approved a bill that would increase the late payment fee from $20 to $35 (if your financial institution desires) and, perhaps more importantly, does away with the mandatory 10-day grace period.That means if you used to wait too long and then mail off that payment a day or two late, hoping it would get there before the 10-day grace period runs out, you've got to get with the program.

"You have a contract with your (financial) institution. If you don't pay (on time) then you're using someone else's funds" in the way of credit, says sponsor Rep. Kevin Garn, R-Layton.

Rep. Dave Hogue, R-Riverton, tried to amend Garn's bill so the late fee could only increase from $20 to $25. "This is a rape of the public - the late charge will come one minute after midnight," said Hogue. "How many in this body can say you make every payment on time?" But his amendment failed.

Garn said the credit card industry is very competitive and the hirer fee will allow Utah banks, thrifts and credit unions to decide themselves if they will raise those rates.

"If you don't like that (higher) fee, you have every opportunity to go to another institution," Garn said. The House passed his bill 47-20.