The Credit CARD Act of 2009 is a federal law passed by the US Congress and signed by President Obama on May 22, 2009, giving credit card users more protection. In this article, we kick off the first of a series of what you can expect from the new federal actions - explained in an easy-to-understand manner.

As a credit cardholder, you now have the right to be notified by credit card companies of certain changes and rights you have. Here we give you a quick rundown.

Effective February 22, 2010, by law, credit card issuers must:

Post their credit card terms and agreements online in a place where consumers may have access to them, as well as have sent copies of such agreements to the Federal Reserve Board for them to be stored.

Set up free telephone numbers where consumers can call in the case of debt managing assistance and credit counseling.

Include a warning in their monthly statements of how long it will take consumers to pay off their debt if they only make minimum payments and how much more interest they will have to pay, explaining how by making the minimum payments, users increase the amount of time it will take to pay off their debt. Credit issuers must also include how much a consumer's monthly payment should be in order for them to pay off their full balance in 36 months.

Include in the monthly bills the dates by which payments are due, and the dates by which the late fees will be charged in their accounts, in order for consumers to be aware and avoid having to pay late penalties. Along with stating the due date, the monthly statement must also include if there will be any interest penalties if the credit card user is late with one or more payments, and if so, what that interest penalty would be.

Inform card users 45 days in advance of any changes in fees, interest rates and terms of the account. Credit card issuers must also inform account holders of their right to cancel their account if they are not in agreement with the new terms established, the deadline to do so and explain the steps to take for opting out, including a toll-free telephone number to call. If consumers are late in their payments by 60 or more days, they will not be allowed to opt out. An exception to the opt out rule is when a credit card company increases the minimum payment required, since in that case consumers are not permitted to opt out. Card holders can start charging higher interest rates 14 days after mailing the notice of the changes.

Not penalize consumers who choose to opt out changes in their account nor expect them to pay off the balance in full immediately or charge them monthly penalties.

Ads and companies offering "free" credit reports must inform consumers that by law, all credit card holders are eligible to obtain a yearly free credit report from each credit bureau. They are also required to include in the ad, either in audio or video if it's on radio or television, that their offer is not the free credit report to which consumers are already eligible to obtain free by law. In their advertisements, the companies or offers must include the only official website in which people may obtain the free credit reports issued by all three credit bureaus:

On, you can now compare credit card offers and apply online.