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Card issuers ponder raft of new fees

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Are you among those thrifty consumers who pride themselves on never paying a dime in credit-card interest? Bravo - and beware.

Banks want you to either cough up some cash or go elsewhere.At a recent conference for credit-card issuers, industry executives and consultants made it plain that cardholders who avoid finance charges and fees are "profit enemies" inviting a barrage of new charges.

"Wall Street analysts are demanding more fees in the revenue mix," Peter Davidson, executive vice president of Speer and Associates, a consulting firm, told the conference.

Consultants are advising card issuers to scrutinize their account portfolios and get rid of customers who pay less than $100 a year in finance charges or who charge less than $10,000 a year on their cards (charges generate fees from merchants).

By imposing a selective annual fee, banks intend to collect a little revenue from those cardholders - or prompt them to cancel their accounts. One alternative under discussion: Charge a "convenience fee" - a dollar or two for each month that you use the account without incurring any finance charges.

Inactive cardholders are targets, too. If you have open accounts you seldom use, don't be surprised if you get a letter from the issuer asking you to either start using your card or pay a fee. Some banks may even levy an inactivity fee, a small charge for each month you don't use the card.

"Balance liquidation fees" are on the drawing board for cardholders who pay off their balances within three months after the expiration of teaser rates.

Also under consideration: fees for closing an account, redeeming rewards and for talking to a customer-service representative too often.

Increased nuisance and penalty fees are also considered "a significant revenue opportunity."