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6500 - Consumer Protection


Subpart B—Open-End Credit

Section 226.5--General Disclosure Requirements

5(a) Form of disclosures.

Paragraph 5(a)(1).

1.  Clear and conspicuous.  The clear and conspicuous standard requires that disclosures be in a reasonably understandable form. Except where otherwise provided, the standard does not require that disclosures be segregated from other material or located in any particular place on the disclosure statement, or that numerical amounts or percentages be in any particular type size. (But see comments 5a(a)(2)--1 and --2 for special rules concerning § 226.5a disclosures for credit card applications and solicitations.) The standard does not prohibit:

• Pluralizing required terminology ("finance charge" and " annual percentage rate").

• Adding to the required disclosures such items as contractual provisions, explanations of contract terms, state disclosures, and translations.

• Sending promotional material with the required disclosures.

• Using commonly accepted or readily understandable abbreviations (such as "mo." for month" or "Tx." for "Texas") in making any required disclosures.

• Using codes or symbols such as "APR" (for annual percentage rate), "FC" (for finance charge), or "Cr" (for credit balance), so long as a legend or description of the code or symbol is provided on the disclosure statement.

2.  Integrated document.  The creditor may make both the initial disclosures (§ 226.6) and the periodic statement disclosures (§ 226.7) on more than one page, and use both the front and the reverse sides, so long as the pages constitute an integrated document. An integrated document would not include disclosure pages provided to the consumer at different times or disclosures interspersed on the same page with promotional material. An integrated document would include, for example:

• Multiple pages provided in the same envelope that cover related material and are folded together, numbered consecutively, or clearly labelled to show that they relate to one another.

• A brochure that contains disclosures and explanatory material about a range of services the creditor offers, such as credit, checking account, and electronic fund transfer features.

Paragraph 5(a)(2).

1.  When disclosures must be more conspicuous.  The term finance charge and annual percentage rate, when required to be used with a number, must be disclosed more conspicuously than other required disclosures, except in the two cases provided in footnote 9. At the creditor's option, "finance charge" and "annual percentage rate" may also be disclosed more conspicuously than the other required disclosures even when the regulation does not so require. The following examples illustrate these rules:

• In disclosing the annual percentage rate as required by § 226.6(a)(2), the term "annual percentage rate" is subject to the "more conspicuous" rule.

• In disclosing the amount of the finance charge, required by § 226.7(f), the term "finance charge'' is subject to the "more conspicuous'' rule.

• Although neither "finance charge" nor "annual percentage rate" need be emphasized when used as part of general informational material or in textual descriptions of other terms, emphasis is permissible in such cases. For example, when the terms appear as part of the explanations required under § 226.6(a)(3) and (4), they may be equally conspicuous as the disclosures required under §§ 226.6(a)(2) and 226.7(g).

2.  Making disclosures more conspicuous.  In disclosing the terms "finance charge" and "annual percentage rate" more conspicuously, only the words "finance charge" and "annual percentage rate" should be accentuated. For example, if the term "total finance charge" is used, only "finance charge" should be emphasized. The disclosures may be made more conspicuous by, for example:

• Capitalizing the words when other disclosures are printed in lower case.

• Putting them in bold print or a contrasting color.

• Underlining them.

• Setting them off with asterisks.

• Printing them in larger type.

3.  Disclosure of figures--exception to "more conspicuous" rule.  The terms "annual percentage rate" and "finance charge" need not be more conspicuous than figures (including, for example, numbers, percentages, and dollar signs).

5(b) Time of disclosures.

5(b)(1) Initial disclosures.

1.  Disclosure before the first transaction.   The rule that the initial disclosure statement must be furnished "before the first transaction" requires delivery of the initial disclosure statement before the consumer becomes obligated on the plan. For example, the initial disclosures must be given before the consumer makes the first purchase (such as when a consumer opens a credit plan and makes purchases contemporaneously at a retail store), receives the first advance, or pays any fees or charges under the plan other than an application fee or refundable membership fee (see below). The prohibition on the payment of fees other than application or refundable membership fees before initial disclosures are provided does not apply to home equity plans subject to § 226.5b. See the commentary to § 226.5(b)(h) regarding the collection of fees for home equity plans covered by § 226.5b.

• If the consumer pays a membership fee before receiving the Truth in Lending disclosures, or the consumer agrees to the imposition of a membership fee at the time of application and the Truth in Lending disclosure statement is not given at that time, disclosures are timely as long as the consumer, after receiving the disclosures, can reject the plan. The creditor must refund the membership fee if it has been paid, or clear the account if it has been debited to the consumer's account.

• If the consumer receives a cash advance check at the same time the Truth in Lending disclosures are provided, disclosures are still timely if the consumer can, after receiving the disclosures, return the cash advance check to the creditor without obligation (for example, without paying finance charges).

• Initial disclosures need not be given before the imposition of an application fee under § 226.4(c)(1).

• If, after receiving the disclosures, the consumer uses the account, pays a fee, or negotiates a cash advance check, the creditor may consider the account not rejected for purposes of this section.

2.  Reactivation of suspended account.  If an account is temporarily suspended (for example, because the consumer has exceeded a credit limit, or because a credit card is reported lost or stolen) and then is reactivated, no new initial disclosures are required.

3.  Reopening closed account.  If an account has been closed (for example, due to inactivity, cancellation, or expiration) and then is reopened, new initial disclosures are required. No new initial disclosures are required, however, when the account is closed merely to assign it a new number (for example, when a credit card is reported lost or stolen) and the "new" account then continues on the same terms.

4.  Converting closed-end to open-end credit.   If a closed-end credit transaction is converted to an open-end credit account under a written agreement with the consumer, the initial disclosures under § 226.6 must be given before the consumer becomes obligated on the open-end credit plan. (See the commentary to § 226.17 on converting open-end credit to closed-end credit.)

5.  Balance transfers.  A creditor that solicits the transfer by a consumer of outstanding balances from an existing account to a new open-end plan must comply with § 226.6 before the balance transfer occurs. Card issuers that are subject to the requirements of § 226.5a may establish procedures that comply with both sections in a single disclosure statement.

5(b)(2) Periodic statements.

Paragraph 5(b)(2)(i).

1.  Periodic statements not required.  Periodic statements need not be sent in the following cases:

• If the creditor adjusts an account balance so that at the end of the cycle the balance is less than $1--so long as no finance charge has been imposed on the account for that cycle.

• If a statement was returned as undeliverable. If a new address is provided, however, within a reasonable time before the creditor must send a statement, the creditor must resume sending statements. Receiving the address at least 20 days before the end of a cycle would be a reasonable amount of time to prepare the statement for that cycle. For example, if an address is received 22 days before the end of the June cycle, the creditor must send the periodic statement for the June cycle. (See § 226.13(a)(7).)

2.  Termination of credit privileges.  When an open-end account is terminated without being converted to closed-end credit under a written agreement, the creditor must continue to provide periodic statements to those consumers entitled to receive them under § 226.5(b)(2)(i) (for example, when an open-end credit plan ends and consumers are paying off outstanding balances) and must continue to follow all of the other open-end credit requirements and procedures in subpart B.

Paragraph 5(b)(2)(ii).

1.  14--day rule.  The 14--day rule for mailing or delivering periodic statements does not apply if charges (for example, transaction or activity charges) are imposed regardless of the timing of a periodic statement. The 14--day rule does apply, for example:

• If current debits retroactively become subject to finance charges when the balance is not paid in full by a specified date.

• If charges other than finance charges will accrue when the consumer does not make timely payments (for example, late payment charges or charges for exceeding a credit limit).

2.  Computer malfunction.  Footnote 10 does not extend to the failure to provide a periodic statement because of computer malfunction.

3.  Calling for periodic statements.  When the consumer initiates a request, the creditor may permit, but may not require, consumers to pick up their periodic statements. If the consumer wishes to pick up the statement and the plan has a free-ride period, the statement must be made available in accordance with the 14-day rule.

4.  Deferred payment transactions.  See comment 7--3(iv).

5(c) Basis of disclosures and use of estimates.

1.  Legal obligation.  The disclosures should reflect the credit terms to which the parties are legally bound at the time of giving the disclosures.

• The legal obligation is determined by applicable state or other law.

• The fact that a term or contract may later be deemed unenforceable by a court on the basis of equity or other grounds does not, by itself, mean that disclosures based on that term or contract did not reflect the legal obligation.

• The legal obligation normally is presumed to be contained in the contract that evidences the agreement. But this may be rebutted if another agreement between the parties legally modifies that contract.

2.  Estimates--obtaining information.   Disclosures may be estimated when the exact information is unknown at the time disclosures are made. Information is unknown if it is not reasonably available to the creditor at the time disclosures are made. The "reasonably available" standard requires that the creditor, acting in good faith, exercise due diligence in obtaining information. In using estimates, the creditor is not required to disclose the basis for the estimated figures, but may include such explanations as additional information. The creditor normally may rely on the representations of other parties in obtaining information. For example, the creditor might look to insurance companies for the cost of insurance.

3.  Estimates--redisclosure.  If the creditor makes estimated disclosures, redisclosure is not required for that consumer, even though more accurate information becomes available before the first transaction. For example, in an open-end plan to be secured by real estate, the creditor may estimate the appraisal fees to be charged; such an estimate might reasonably be based on the prevailing market rates for similar appraisals. If the exact appraisal fee is determinable after the estimate is furnished but before the consumer receives the first advance under the plan, no new disclosure is necessary.

5(d) Multiple creditors; multiple consumers.

1.  Multiple creditors.  Under § 226.5(d):

• Creditors must choose which of them will make the disclosures.

• A single, complete set of disclosures must be provided, rather than partial disclosures from several creditors.

• All disclosures for the open-end credit plan must be given, even if the disclosing creditor would not otherwise have been obligated to make a particular disclosure.

2.  Multiple consumers.  Disclosures may be made to either obligor on a joint account. Disclosure responsibilities are not satisfied by giving disclosures to only a surety or guarantor for a principal obligor or to an authorized user. In rescindable transactions, however, separate disclosures must be given to each consumer who has the right to rescind under § 226.15.

5(e) Effect of subsequent events.

1.  Events causing inaccuracies.  Inaccuracies in disclosures are not violations if attributable to events occurring after disclosures are made. For example, when the consumer fails to fulfill a prior commitment to keep the collateral insured and the creditor then provides the coverage and charges the consumer for it, such a change does not make the original disclosures inaccurate. The creditor may, however, be required to provide a new disclosure(s) under § 226.9(c).

2.  Use of inserts.  When changes in a creditor's plan affect required disclosures, the creditor may use inserts with outdated disclosure forms. Any insert:

• Should clearly refer to the disclosure provision it replaces.

• Need not be physically attached or affixed to the basic disclosure statement.

• May be used only until the supply of outdated forms is exhausted.

Section 226.5a Credit and Charge Card Applications and Solicitations

1.  General. Section 226.5a generally requires that credit disclosures be contained in application forms and preapproved solicitations initiated by a card issuer to open a credit or charge card account. (See the commentary to § 226.5a(a)(3) and (e) for exceptions; see also § 226.2(a)(15) and accompanying commentary for the definition of charge card.)

2.  Combining disclosures. The initial disclosures required by § 226.6 do not substitute for the disclosures required by § 226.5a; however, a card issuer may establish procedures so that a single disclosure statement meets the requirements of both sections. For example, if a card issuer in complying with § 226.5a(e)(2) provides all the applicable disclosures required under § 226.6, in a form that the consumer may keep and in accordance with the other format and timing requirements for that section, the issuer satisfies the initial disclosure requirements under § 226.6 as well as the disclosure requirements of § 226.5a(e)(2). Or if, in complying with § 226.5a(c) or § 226.5a(d)(2), a card issuer provides an integrated document that the consumer may keep, and provides the § 226.5a disclosures (in a tabular format) along with the additional disclosures required under § 226.6 (presented outside of the table), the card issuer satisfies the requirements of both §§ 226.5a and 226.6.

5a(a) General Rules

5a(a)(2) Form of Disclosures

1.  Clear and conspicuous standard.  For purposes of § 226.5a disclosures, clear and conspicuous means in a reasonably understandable form and readily noticeable to the consumer. As to type size, disclosures in 12-point type are deemed to be readily noticeable for purposes of § 226.5a. Disclosures printed in less than 12-point type do not automatically violate the standard; however, disclosures in less than 8-point type would likely be too small to satisfy the standard. Disclosures that are transmitted by electronic communication are judged for purposes of the clear and conspicuous standard based on the form in which they are provided even though they may be viewed by the consumer in a different form.

2.  Prominent location.  i.  Generally.  Certain of the required disclosures provided on or with an application or solicitation must be prominently located. Disclosures are deemed to be prominently located, for example, if the disclosures are on the same page as an application or solicitation reply form. If the disclosures appear elsewhere, they are deemed to be prominently located if the application or solicitation reply form contains a clear and conspicuous reference to the location of the disclosures and indicates that they contain rate, fee, and other cost information, as applicable. Disclosures required by § 226.5a(b) that are placed outside the table must begin on the same page as the table but need not end on the same page.

ii.  Electronic disclosures.Electronic disclosures are deemed to be prominently located if:

A.  They are posted on a web site and the application or solicitation reply form is linked to the disclosures in a manner that prevents the consumer from by-passing the disclosures before submitting the application or reply form; or

B.  They are located on the same page as an application or solicitation reply form, that contains a clear and conspicuous reference to the location of the disclosures and indicates that they contain rate, fee, and other cost information, as applicable.

3.  Multiple accounts or varying terms. If a tabular format is required to be used, card issuers offering several types of accounts may disclose the various terms for the accounts in a single table or may provide a separate table for each account. Similarly, if rates or other terms vary from state to state, card issuers may list the states and the various disclosures in a single table or in separate tables.

4.  Additional information. The table containing the disclosures required by § 226.5a should contain only the information required or permitted by this section. (See the commentary to § 226.5a(b) for guidance on information permitted in the table.) Other credit information may be presented on or with an application or solicitation, provided such information appears outside the required table.

5.  Location of certain disclosures. A card issuer has the option of disclosing any of the fees in § 226.5a(b) (8) through (10) in the required table or outside the table.

6.  Terminology. In general, § 226.5a(a)(2)(iv) requires that the terminology used for the disclosures specified in § 226.5a(b) be consistent with that used in the disclosures under §§ 226.6 and 226.7. This standard requires that the § 226.5a(b) disclosures be close in meaning to those under §§  226.6 and 226.7; however, the terminology used need not be identical. In addition, § 226.5a(a)(2)(i) requires that the headings, content, and format of the tabular disclosures be substantially similar, but need not be identical, to the tables in Appendix G. A special rule applies to the grace period disclosure, however: the term "grace period" must be used, either in the heading or in the text of the disclosure.

7.  Deletion of inapplicable disclosures. Generally, disclosures need only be given as applicable. Card issuers may, therefore, delete inapplicable headings and their corresponding boxes in the table. For example, if no transaction fee is imposed for purchases, the disclosure form may contain the heading "Transaction fee for purchases" and a box showing "none," or the heading and box may be deleted from the table. There is an exception for the grace period disclosure, however; even if no grace period exists, that fact must be stated.

8.  Form of electronic disclosures provided on or with electronic applications or solicitations. Card issuers must provide the disclosures required by this section on or with a blank application or reply form that is made available to the consumer in electronic form, such as on a card issuer's Internet Web site. Card issuers have flexibility in satisfying this requirement. Methods card issuers could use to satisfy the requirement include, but are not limited to, the following examples:

i.  The disclosures could automatically appear on the screen when the application or reply form appears;

ii.  The disclosures could be located on the same Web page as the application or reply form (whether or not they appear on the initial screen), if the application or reply form contains a clear and conspicuous reference to the location of the disclosures and indicates that the disclosures contain rate, fee, and other cost information, as applicable;

iii.  Card issuers could provide a link to the electronic disclosures on or with the application (or reply form) as long as consumers cannot bypass the disclosures before submitting the application or reply form. The link would take the consumer to the disclosures, but the consumer need not be required to scroll completely through the disclosures; or

iv.  The disclosures could be located on the same web page as the application or reply form without necessarily appearing on the initial screen, immediately preceding the button that the consumer will click to submit the application or reply.

Whatever method is used, a card issuer need not confirm that the consumer has read the disclosures. For disclosures required to be provided in tabular form, card issuers must satisfy the requirements with respect to electronic disclosures set forth in comment 5a(a)(2)--2(ii).

9.  Form of disclosures. Whether disclosures must be in electronic form depends upon the following:

i.  If a consumer accesses a credit card application or solicitation electronically (other than as described under ii. below), such as online at a home computer, the card issuer must provide the disclosures in electronic form (such as with the application or solicitation on its Web site) in order to meet the requirement to provide disclosures in a timely manner on or with the application or solicitation. If the issuer instead mailed paper disclosures to the consumer, this requirement would not be met.

ii.  In contrast, if a consumer is physically present in the card issuer's office, and accesses a credit card application or solicitation electronically, such as via a terminal or kiosk (or if the consumer uses a terminal or kiosk located on the premises of an affiliate or third party that has arranged with the card issuer to provide applications or solicitations to consumers), the issuer may provide disclosures in either electronic or paper form, provided the issuer complies with the timing and delivery ("on or with") requirements of the regulation.

5a(a)(3) Exceptions

1.  Coverage. Certain exceptions to the coverage of § 226.5a are stated in § 226.5a(a)(3); in addition, the requirements of § 226.5a do not apply to the following:

• Lines of credit accessed solely by account numbers

• Addition of a credit or charge card to an existing open-end plan

2.  Noncoverage of "consumer initiated" requests. Applications provided to a consumer upon request are not covered by § 226.5a, even if the request is made in response to the card issuer's invitation to apply for a card account. To illustrate, if a card issuer invites consumers to call a toll-free number or to return a response card to obtain an application, the application sent in response to the consumer's request need not contain the disclosures required under § 226.5a. Similarly, if the card issuer invites consumers to call and make an oral application on the telephone, § 226.5a does not apply to the application made by the consumer. If, however, the card issuer calls a consumer or initiates a telephone discussion with a consumer about opening a card account and contemporaneously takes an oral application, such applications are subject to § 226.5a, specifically § 226.5a(d).

3.  General purpose applications. The requirements of this section do not apply to general purpose applications unless the application, or material accompanying it, indicates that it can be used to open a credit or charge card account.

5a(a)(5) Certain Fees that Vary by State

1.  Manner of disclosing range. If the card issuer discloses a range of fees instead of disclosing the amount of the fee imposed in each state, the range may be stated as the lowest authorized fee (zero, if there are one or more states where no fee applies) to the highest authorized fee.

5a(b) Required Disclosures

5a(b)(1) Annual Percentage Rate

1.  Periodic rate. The periodic rate, expressed as such, may be disclosed in the table in addition to the required disclosure of the corresponding annual percentage rate.

2.  Variable-rate accounts--definition. For purposes of § 226.5a(b)(1), a variable-rate account exists when rate changes are part of the plan and are tied to an index or formula. (See the commentary to § 226.6(a)(2) for examples of variable-rate plans.)

3.  Variable-rate accounts--rates in effect. For variable-rate disclosures in direct mail applications and solicitations subject to § 226.5a(c), and in applications and solicitations made available to the general public subject to § 226.5a(e), the rules concerning accuracy of the annual percentage rate are stated in § 226.5a(b)(1)(ii). For variable-rate disclosures in telephone applications and solicitations subject to § 226.5a(d), the card issuer must provide an annual percentage rate currently applicable when oral disclosures are provided under § 226.5a(d)(1). For the alternate disclosures under § 226.5a(d)(2), the card issuer must provide the annual percentage rate in effect at the time the disclosures are mailed or delivered. A rate in effect also includes the rate as of a specified date (which rate is then updated from time to time, for example, each calendar month) or an estimated rate provided in accordance with § 226.5(c).

4.  Variable-rate accounts--other disclosures. In describing how the applicable rate will be determined, the card issuer must identify the index or formula and disclose any margin or spread added to the index or formula in setting the rate. The card issuer may disclose the margin or spread as a range of the highest and lowest margins that may be applicable to the account. A disclosure of any applicable limitations on rate increases or decreases may also be included in the table.

5.  Introductory rates--discounted rates. If the initial rate is temporary and is lower than the rate that will apply after the temporary rate expires, the card issuer must disclose the annual percentage rate that would otherwise apply to the account. In a fixed-rate account, the card issuer must disclose the rate that will apply after the introductory rate expires. In a variable-rate account, the card issuer must disclose a rate based on the index or formula applicable to the account in accordance with the rules in § 226.5a(b)(1)(ii) and comment 5a(b)(1)--3. An initial discounted rate may be provided in the table along with the rate required to be disclosed if the card issuer also discloses the time period during which the introductory rate will remain in effect.

6.  Introductory rates--premium rates.  If the initial rate is temporary and is higher than the permanently applicable rate, the card issuer must disclose the initial rate in the table. The initial rate must be in at least 18-point type unless the issuer also discloses in the table the permanently applicable rate. The issuer may disclose in the table the permanently applicable rate that would otherwise apply if the issuer also discloses the time period during which the initial rate will remain in effect. In that case, the permanently applicable rate must be in at least 18-point type.

7.  Increased penalty rates.  If the initial rate may increase upon the occurrence of one or more specific events, such as a late payment or an extension of credit that exceeds the credit limit, the card issuer must disclose in the table the initial rate and the increased penalty rate that may apply. If the penalty rate is based on an index and an increased margin, the issuer must also disclose in the table the index and the margin as well as the specific event or events that may result in the increased rate, such as "applies to accounts 60 days late." If the penalty rate cannot be determined at the time disclosures are given, the issuer must provide an explanation of the specific event or events that may result in imposing an increased rate. In describing the specific event or events that may result in an increased rate, issuers need not be as detailed as for the disclosures required under § 226.6(a)(2). For issuers using a tabular format, the specific event or events must be placed outside the table and an asterisk or other means shall be used to direct the consumer to the additional information. At its option, the issuer may include in the explanation of the penalty rate the period for which the increased rate will remain in effect, such as "until you make three timely payments." The issuer need not disclose an increased rate that is imposed when credit privileges are permanently terminated.

5a(b)(2) Fees for Issuance or Availability

1.  Membership fees. Membership fees for opening an account must be disclosed under this paragraph. A membership fee to join an organization that provides a credit or charge card as a privilege of membership must be disclosed only if the card is issued automatically upon membership. Such a fee need not be disclosed if membership results merely in eligibility to apply for an account.

2.  Enhancements. Fees for optional services in addition to basic membership privileges in a credit or charge card account (for example, travel insurance or card-registration services) should not be disclosed in the table if the basic account may be opened without paying such fees.

3.  One-time fees. Disclosure of non-periodic fees is limited to fees related to opening the account, such as one-time membership fees. The following are examples of fees that should not be disclosed in the table:

• Fees for reissuing a lost or stolen card

• Statement reproduction fees

• Application fees described in § 226.4(c)(1)

4.  Waived or reduced fees. If fees required to be disclosed are waived or reduced for a limited time, the introductory fees or the fact of fee waivers may be provided in the table in addition to the required fees if the card issuer also discloses how long the fees or waivers will remain in effect.

5.  Fees stated as annual amount. Fees imposed periodically must be stated as an annual total. For example, if a fee is imposed quarterly, the disclosures would state the total amount of the fees for one year. (See, however, the commentary to § 226.9(e) with regard to disclosure of such fees in renewal notices.)

5a(b)(4) Transaction Charges

1.  Charges imposed by person other than card issuer. Charges imposed by a third party, such as a seller of goods, would not be disclosed under this section; the third party would be responsible for disclosing the charge under § 226.9(d)(1).

5a(b)(5) Grace Period

1.  How disclosure is made. The card issuer may, but need not, refer to the beginning or ending point of any grace period and briefly state any conditions on the applicability of the grace period. For example, the grace period disclosure might read "30 days" or "30 days from the date of the periodic statement (provided you have paid your previous balance in full by the due date)."

5a(b)(6) Balance Computation Method

1.  Form of disclosure. In cases where the card issuer uses a balance calculation method that is identified by name in the regulation, the card issuer may only disclose the name of the method in the table. In cases where the card issuer uses a balance computation method that is not identified by name in the regulation, the disclosure in the table should clearly explain the method in as much detail as set forth in the descriptions of balance methods in section 226.5a(g). The explanation need not be as detailed as that required for the disclosures under § 226.6(a)(3). (See the commentary to § 226.5a(g) for guidance on particular methods.

2.  Determining the method. In determining the appropriate balance computation method for purchases for disclosure purposes, the card issuer must assume that a purchase balance will exist at the end of any grace period. Thus, for example, if the average daily balance method will include new purchases or cover two billing cycles only if purchase balances are not paid within the grace period, the card issuer would disclose the name of the average daily balance method that includes new purchases or covers two billing cycles, respectively. The card issuer should not assume the existence of a purchase balance, however, in making other disclosures under §  226.5a(b).

5a(b)(7) Statement on Charge Card Payments

1.  Applicability and content. The disclosure that charges are payable upon receipt of the periodic statement is applicable only to charge card accounts. In making this disclosure, the card issuer may make such modifications as are necessary to more accurately reflect the circumstances of repayment under the account. For example, the disclosure might read, "Charges are due and payable upon receipt of the periodic statement and must be paid no later than 15 days after receipt of such statement."

5a(b)(8) Cash Advance Fee

1.  Applicability. The card issuer must disclose only those fees it imposes for a cash advance that are finance charges under § 226.4. For example, a charge for a cash advance at an automated teller machine (ATM) would be disclosed under § 226.5a(b)(8) if no similar charge is imposed for ATM transactions not involving an extension of credit. (See comment 4(a)--5 for a description of such a fee.)

5a(b)(9) Late Payment Fee

1.  Applicability. The disclosure of the fee for a late payment includes only those fees that will be imposed for actual, unanticipated late payments. (See the commentary to § 226.4(c)(2) for additional guidance on late payment fees.)

5a(b)(10) Over-the-Limit Fee

1.  Applicability. The disclosure of fees for exceeding a credit limit does not include fees for other types of default or for services related to exceeding the limit. For example, no disclosure is required of fees for reinstating credit privileges or fees for the dishonor of checks on an account that, if paid, would cause the credit limit to be exceeded.

5a(c) Direct Mail Applications and Solicitations

1.  Accuracy. In general, disclosures in direct mail applications and solicitations must be accurate as of the time of mailing. (An accurate variable annual percentage rate is one in effect within 60 days before mailing.)

2.  Mailed publications. Applications or solicitations contained in generally available publications mailed to consumers (such as subscription magazines) are subject to the requirements applicable to "take-ones" in § 226.5a(e), rather than the direct mail requirements of § 226.5a(c). However, if a primary purpose of a card issuer's mailing is to offer credit or charge card accounts--for example, where a card issuer "prescreens" a list of potential cardholders using credit criteria, and then mails to the targeted group its catalog containing an application or a solicitation for a card account--the direct mail rules apply. In addition, a card issuer may use a single application form as a "take-one" (in racks in public locations, for example) and for direct mailings, if the card issuer complies with the requirements of § 226.5a(c) even when the form is used as a "take-one"--that is, by presenting the required § 226.5a disclosures in a tabular format. When used in a direct mailing, the credit term disclosures must be accurate as of the mailing date whether or not the §§ 226.5a(e)(1)(ii) and (iii) disclosures are included; when used in a take-one, the disclosures must be accurate for as long as the take-one forms remain available to the public if the §§ 226.5a(e)(1)(ii) and (iii) disclosures are omitted. (If those disclosures are included in the take-one, the credit term disclosures need only be accurate as of the printing date.)

5a(d) Telephone Applications and Solicitations

1.  Coverage. This paragraph applies if:

• A telephone conversation between a card issuer and consumer may result in the issuance of a card as a consequence of an issuer-initiated offer to open an account for which the issuer does not require any application (that is, a "preapproved" telephone solicitation).

• The card issuer initiates the contact and at the same time takes application information over the telephone.

This paragraph does not apply to:

• Telephone applications initiated by the consumer.

• Situations where no card will be issued--because, for example, the consumer indicates that he or she does not want the card, or the card issuer decides either during the telephone conversation or later not to issue the card.

5a(e) Applications and Solicitations Made Available to General Public

1.  Coverage. Applications and solicitations made available to the general public include what are commonly referred to as "take-one" applications typically found at counters in banks and retail establishments, as well as applications contained in catalogs, magazines and other generally available publications. In the case of credit unions, this paragraph applies to applications and solicitations to open card accounts made available to those in the general field of membership.

2.  Cross-selling. If a card issuer invites a consumer to apply for a credit or charge card (for example, where the issuer engages in cross-selling), an application provided to the consumer at the consumer's request is not considered an application made available to the general public and therefore is not subject to § 226.5a(e). For example, the following are not covered:

• A consumer applies in person for a car loan at a financial institution and the loan officer invites the consumer to apply for a credit or charge card account; the consumer accepts the invitation.

• An employee of a retail establishment, in the course of processing a sales transaction using a bank credit card, asks a customer if he or she would like to apply for the retailer's credit or charge card; the customer responds affirmatively.

3.  Toll-free telephone number. If a card issuer, in complying with any of the disclosure options of § 226.5a(e), provides a telephone number for consumers to call to obtain credit information, the number must be toll-free for nonlocal calls made from an area code other than the one used in the card issuer's dialing area. Alternatively, a card issuer may provide any telephone number that allows a consumer to call for information and reverse the telephone charges.

5a(e)(1) Disclosure of Required Credit Information

1.  Date of printing. Disclosure of the month and year fulfills the requirement to disclose the date an application was printed.

2.  Form of disclosures. The disclosures specified in §§ 226.5a(e)(1)(ii) and (iii) may appear either in or outside the table containing the required credit disclosures.

5a(e)(2) Inclusion of Certain Initial Disclosures.

1.  Accuracy of disclosures. The disclosures required by § 226.5a(e)(2) generally must be current as of the time they are made available to the public. Disclosures are considered to be made available at the time they are placed in public locations (in the case of "take-ones") or mailed to consumers (in the case of publications).

2.  Accuracy--exception. If a card issuer discloses all the information required by § 226.5a(e)(1)(ii) on the application or solicitation, the disclosures under § 226.5a(e)(2) need only be current as of the date of printing. (A current variable annual percentage rate would be one in effect within 30 days before printing.)

5a(e)(3) No Disclosure of Credit Information

1.  When disclosure option available. A card issuer may use this option only if the issuer does not include on or with the application or solicitation any statement that refers to the credit disclosures required by § 226.5a(b). Statements such as "no annual fee," "low interest rate," "favorable rates," and "low costs" are deemed to refer to the required credit disclosures and, therefore, may not be included on or with the solicitation or application, if the card issuer chooses to use this option.

5a(e)(4) Prompt Response to Requests for Information

1.  Prompt disclosure. Information is promptly disclosed if it is given within 30 days of a consumer's request for information but in no event later than delivery of the credit or charge card.

2.  Information disclosed. When a consumer requests credit information, card issuers need not provide all the required credit disclosures in all instances. For example, if disclosures have been provided in accordance with § 226.5a(e)(1) or (2) and a consumer calls or writes a card issuer to obtain information about changes in the disclosures, the issuer need only provide the items of information that have changed from those previously disclosed on or with the application or solicitation. If a consumer requests information about particular items, the card issuer need only provide the requested information. If, however, the card issuer has made disclosures in accordance with the option in § 226.5a(e)(3) and a consumer calls or writes the card issuer requesting information about costs, all the required disclosure information must be given.

3.  Manner of response. A card issuer's response to a consumer's request for credit information may be provided orally or in writing, regardless of the manner in which the consumer's request is received by the issuer. Furthermore, the card issuer may provide the information listed in either § 226.5a(e) (1) or (2). Information provided in writing need not be in a tabular format.

5a(f) Special Charge Card Rule--Card Issuer and Person Extending Credit Not the Same Person

1.  Duties of charge card issuer. Although the charge card issuer is not required to disclose information about the underlying open-end credit plan if the card issuer meets the conditions set forth in § 226.5a(f), the card issuer must disclose the information relating to the charge card plan itself.

2.  Duties of creditor maintaining open-end plan. Section 226.5a does not impose disclosure requirements on the creditor that maintains the underlying open-end credit plan. This is the case even though the creditor offering the open-end credit plan may be considered an agent of the charge card issuer. (See comment 2(a)(7)--1.)

3.  Form of disclosures. The disclosures required by § 226.5a(f) may appear either in or outside the table containing the required credit disclosures in circumstances where a tabular format is required.

5a(g) Balance Computation Methods Defined

1.  Daily balance method. Card issuers using the daily balance method may disclose it using the name "average daily balance (including new purchases)" or "average daily balance (excluding new purchases)," as appropriate. Alternatively, such card issuers may explain the method. (See comment 7(e)--5 for a discussion of the daily balance method.)

2.  Two-cycle average daily balance methods. The "two-cycle average daily balance" methods described in § 226.5a(g)(2) (i) and (ii) include those methods in which the average daily balances for two billing cycles may be added together to compute the finance charge. Such methods also include those in which a periodic rate is applied separately to the balance in each cycle, and the resulting finance charges are added together. The method is a "two-cycle average daily balance" even if the finance charge is based on both the current and prior cycle balances only under certain circumstances, such as when purchases during a prior cycle were carried over into the current cycle and no finance charge was assessed during the prior cycle. Furthermore, the method is a "two-cycle average daily balance method" if the balances for both the current and prior cycles are average daily balances, even if those balances are figured differently. For example, the name "two-cycle average daily balance (excluding new purchases)" should be used to describe a method in which the finance charge for the current cycle, figured on an average daily balance excluding new purchases, will be added to the finance charge for the prior cycle, figured on an average daily balance of only new purchases during that prior cycle.

Section 226.5b Requirements for Home Equity Plans

1.  Coverage. This section applies to all open-end credit plans secured by the consumer's "dwelling," as defined in § 226.2(a)(19), and is not limited to plans secured by the consumer's principal dwelling. (See the commentary to § 226.3(a), which discusses whether transactions are consumer or business-purpose credit, for guidance on whether a home equity plan is subject to Regulation Z.)

2.  Changes to home equity plans entered into on or after November 7, 1989. Section 226.9(c) applies if, by written agreement under § 226.5b(f)(3)(iii), a creditor changes the terms of a home equity plan--entered into on or after November 7, 1989--at or before its scheduled expiration, for example, by renewing a plan on different terms. A new plan results, however, if the plan is renewed (with or without changes to the terms) after the scheduled expiration. The new plan is subject to all open-end credit rules, including §§ 226.5b, 226.6, and 226.15.

3.  Transition rules and renewals of preexisting plans. The requirements of this section do not apply to home equity plans entered into before November 7, 1989. The requirements of this section also do not apply if the original consumer, on or after November 7, 1989, renews a plan entered into prior to that date (with or without changes to the terms). If, on or after November 7, 1989, a security interest in the consumer's dwelling is added to a line of credit entered into before that date, the substantive restrictions of this section apply for the remainder of the plan but no new disclosures are required under this section.

4.  Disclosure of repayment phase--applicability of requirements. Some plans provide in the initial agreement for a period during which no further draws may be taken and repayment of the amount borrowed is made. All of the applicable disclosures in this section must be given for the repayment phase. Thus, for example, a creditor must provide payment information about the repayment phase as well as about the draw period, as required by § 226.5b(d)(5). If the rate that will apply during the repayment phase is fixed at a known amount, the creditor must provide an annual percentage rate under § 226.5b(d)(6) for that phase. If, however, a creditor uses an index to determine the rate that will apply at the time of conversion to the repayment phase--even if the rate will thereafter be fixed--the creditor must provide the information in § 226.5b(d)(12), as applicable.

5.  Payment terms--applicability of closed-end provisions and substantive rules. All payment terms that are provided for in the initial agreement are subject to the requirements of subpart B and not subpart C of the regulation. Payment terms that are subsequently added to the agreement may be subject to subpart B or to subpart C, depending on the circumstances. The following examples apply these general rules to different situations:

• If the initial agreement provides for a repayment phase or for other payment terms such as options permitting conversion of part or all of the balance to a fixed rate during the draw period, these terms must be disclosed pursuant to §§ 226.5b and 226.6, and not under subpart C. Furthermore, the creditor must continue to provide periodic statements under § 226.7 and comply with other provisions of subpart B (such as the substantive requirements of § 226.5b(f)) throughout the plan, including the repayment phase.

• If the consumer and the creditor enter into an agreement during the draw period to repay all or part of the principal balance on different terms (for example, with a fixed rate of interest) and the amount of available credit will be replenished as the principal balance is repaid, the creditor must continue to comply with subpart B. For example, the creditor must continue to provide periodic statements and comply with the substantive requirements of § 226.5b(f) throughout the plan.

• If the consumer and creditor enter into an agreement during the draw period to repay all or part of the principal balance and the amount of available credit will not be replenished as the principal balance is repaid, the creditor must give closed-end credit disclosures pursuant to subpart C for that new agreement. In such cases, subpart B, including the substantive rules, does not apply to the closed-end credit transaction, although it will continue to apply to any remaining open-end credit available under the plan.

6.  Spreader clause. When a creditor holds a mortgage or deed of trust on the consumer's dwelling and that mortgage or deed of trust contains a "spreader clause" (also known as a "dragnet" or cross-collateralization clause), subsequent occurrences such as the opening of an open-end plan are subject to the rules applicable to home equity plans to the same degree as if a security interest were taken directly to secure the plan, unless the creditor effectively waives its security interest under the spreader clause with respect to the subsequent open-end credit extensions.

5b(a) Form of Disclosures

5b(a)(1) General

1.  Written disclosures. The disclosures required under this section must be clear and conspicuous and in writing, but need not be in a form the consumer can keep. (See the commentary to § 226.6(e) for special rules when disclosures required under § 226.5b(d) are given in a retainable form.)

2.  Disclosure of annual percentage rate--more conspicuous requirement. As provided in § 226.5(a)(2), when the term "annual percentage rate" is required to be disclosed with a number, it must be more conspicuous than other required disclosures.

3.  Segregation of disclosures. While most of the disclosures must be grouped together and segregated from all unrelated information, the creditor is permitted to include information that explains or expands on the required disclosures, including, for example:

• Any prepayment penalty

• How a substitute index may be chosen

• Actions the creditor may take short of terminating and accelerating an outstanding balance

• Renewal terms

• Rebate of fees

An example of information that does not explain or expand on the required disclosures and thus cannot be included is the creditor's underwriting criteria, although the creditor could provide such information separately from the required disclosures.

4.  Method of providing disclosures. A creditor may provide a single disclosure form for all of its home equity plans, as long as the disclosure describes all aspects of the plans. For example, if the creditor offers several payment options, all such options must be disclosed. (See, however, the commentary to § 226.5b(d)(5)(iii) and (d)(12) (x) and (xi) for disclosure requirements relating to these provisions.) If any aspects of a plan are linked together, the creditor must disclose clearly the relationship of the terms to each other. For example, if the consumer can only obtain a particular payment option in conjunction with a certain variable-rate feature, this fact must be disclosed. A creditor has the option of providing separate disclosure forms for multiple options or variations in features. For example, a creditor that offers different payment options for the draw period may prepare separate disclosure forms for the two payment options. A creditor using this alternative, however, must include a statement on each disclosure form that the consumer should ask about the creditor's other home equity programs. (This disclosure is required only for those programs available generally to the public. Thus, if the only other programs available are employee preferred-rate plans, for example, the creditor would not have to provide this statement.) A creditor that receives a request for information about other available programs must provide the additional disclosures as soon as reasonably possible.

5.  Form of electronic disclosures provided on or with electronic applications. Creditors must provide the disclosures required by this section (including the brochure) on or with a blank application that is made available to the consumer in electronic form, such as on a creditor's Internet Web site. Creditors have flexibility in satisfying this requirement. Methods creditors could use to satisfy the requirement include, but are not limited to, the following examples:

i.  The disclosures could automatically appear on the screen when the application appears;

ii.  The disclosures could be located on the same web page as the application (whether or not they appear on the initial screen), if the application contains a clear and conspicuous reference to the location of the disclosures and indicates that the disclosures contain rate, fee, and other cost information, as applicable;

iii.  Creditors could provide a link to the electronic disclosures on or with the application as long as consumers cannot bypass the disclosures before submitting the application. The link would take the consumer to the disclosures, but the consumer need not be required to scroll completely through the disclosures; or

iv.  The disclosures could be located on the same web page as the application without necessarily appearing on the initial screen, immediately preceding the button that the consumer will click to submit the application.

Whatever method is used, a creditor need not confirm that the consumer has read the disclosures.

5b(a)(2) Precedence of Certain Disclosures

1.  Precedence rule. The list of conditions provided at the creditor's option under § 226.5b(d)(4)(iii) need not precede the other disclosures.

5b(b) Time of Disclosures

1.  Mail and telephone applications. If the creditor sends applications through the mail, the disclosures and a brochure must accompany the application. If an application is taken over the telephone, the disclosures and brochure may be delivered or mailed within three business days of taking the application. If an application is mailed to the consumer following a telephone request, however, the creditor also must send the disclosures and a brochure along with the application.

2.  General purpose applications. The disclosures and a brochure need not be provided when a general purpose application is given to a consumer unless (1) the application or materials accompanying it indicate that it can be used to apply for a home equity plan or (2) the application is provided in response to a consumer's specific inquiry about a home equity plan. On the other hand, if a general purpose application is provided in response to a consumer's specific inquiry only about credit other than a home equity plan, the disclosures and brochure need not be provided even if the application indicates it can be used for a home equity plan, unless it is accompanied by promotional information about home equity plans.

3.  Publicly-available applications. Some creditors make applications for home equity plans, such as "take-ones," available without the need for a consumer to request them. These applications must be accompanied by the disclosures and a brochure, such as by attaching the disclosures and brochure to the application form.

4.  Response cards. A creditor may solicit consumers for its home equity plan by mailing a "response card" which the consumer returns to the creditor to indicate interest in the plan. If the only action taken by the creditor upon receipt of the response card is to send the consumer an application form or to telephone the consumer to discuss the plan, the creditor need not send the disclosures and brochure with the response card.

5.  Denial or withdrawal of application. In situations where footnote 10a permits the creditor a three-day delay in providing disclosures and the brochure, if the creditor determines within that period that an application will not be approved, the creditor need not provide the consumer with the disclosures or brochure. Similarly, if the consumer withdraws the application within this tree-day period, the creditor need not provide the disclosures or brochure.

6.  Intermediary agent or broker. In determining whether or not an application involves an "intermediary agent or broker" as discussed in footnote 10a, creditors should consult the provisions in comment 19(b)--3.

5b(a)(3)

1.  Form of disclosures. Whether disclosures must be in electronic form depends upon the following:

i.  If a consumer accesses a home equity credit line application electronically (other than as described under ii. below), such as online at a home computer, the creditor must provide the disclosures in electronic form (such as with the application form on its Web site) in order to meet the requirement to provide disclosures in a timely manner on or with the application. If the creditor instead mailed paper disclosures to the consumer, this requirement would not be met.

ii.  In contrast, if a consumer is physically present in the creditor's office, and accesses a home equity credit line application electronically, such as via a terminal or kiosk (or if the consumer uses a terminal or kiosk located on the premises of an affiliate or third party that has arranged with the creditor to provide applications to consumers), the creditor may provide disclosures in either electronic or paper form, provided the creditor complies with the timing, delivery, and retainability requirements of the regulation.

5b(c) Duties of Third Parties

1.  Disclosure requirements. Although third parties who give applications to consumers for home equity plans must provide the brochure required under § 226.5b(e) in all cases, such persons need provide the disclosures required under § 226.5b(d) only in certain instances. A third party has no duty to obtain disclosures about a creditor's home equity plan or to create a set of disclosures based on what it knows about a creditor's plan. If, however, a creditor provides the third party with disclosures along with its application form, the third party must give the disclosures to the consumer with the application form. The duties under this section are those of the third party; the creditor is not responsible for ensuring that a third party complies with those obligations. If an intermediary agent or broker takes an application over the telephone or receives an application contained in a magazine or other publication, footnote 10a permits that person to mail the disclosures and brochure within three business days of receipt of the application. (See the commentary to § 226.5b(h) about imposition of nonrefundable fees.)

5b(d) Content of Disclosures

1.  Disclosures given as applicable. The disclosures required under this section need be made only as applicable. Thus, for example, if negative amortization cannot occur in a home equity plan, a reference to it need not be made.

2.  Duty to respond to requests for information. If the consumer, prior to the opening of a plan, requests information as suggested in the disclosures (such as the current index value or margin), the creditor must provide this information as soon as reasonably possible after the request.

5b(d)(1) Retention of Information

1.  When disclosure not required. The creditor need no disclose that the consumer should make or otherwise retain a copy of the disclosures if they are retainable--for example, if the disclosures are not part of an application that must be returned to the creditor to apply for the plan.

5b(d)(2) Conditions for Disclosed Terms

Paragraph 5b(d)(2)(i)

1.  Guaranteed terms. The requirement that the creditor disclose the time by which an application must be submitted to obtain the disclosed terms does not require the creditor to guarantee any terms. If a creditor chooses not to guarantee any terms, it must disclose that 4-30-93>0; FRB's Truth in Lending Official>all of the terms are subject to change prior to opening the plan. The creditor also is permitted to guarantee some terms and not others, but must indicate which terms are subject to change.

2.  Date for obtaining disclosed terms. The creditor may disclose either a specific date or a time period for obtaining the disclosed terms. If the creditor discloses a time period, the consumer must be able to determine from the disclosure the specific date by which an application must be submitted to obtain any guaranteed terms. For example, the disclosure might read, "To obtain the following terms, you must submit your application within 60 days after the date appearing on this disclosure," provided the disclosure form also shows the date.

Paragraph 5b(d)(2)(ii)

1.  Relation to other provisions. Creditors should consult the rules in § 226.5b(g) regarding refund of fees.

5b(d)(4) Possible Actions by Creditor

Paragraph 5b(d)(4)(i)

1.  Fees imposed upon termination. This disclosure applies only to fees (such as penalty or prepayment fees) that the creditor imposes if it terminates the plan prior to normal expiration. The disclosure does not apply to fees that are imposed either when the plan expires in accordance with the agreement or if the consumer terminates the plan prior to its scheduled maturity. In addition, the disclosure does not apply to fees associated with collection of the debt, such as attorneys fees and court costs, or to increases in the annual percentage rate linked to the consumer's failure to make payments. The actual amount of the fee need not be disclosed.

2.  Changes specified in the initial agreement. If changes may occur pursuant to § 226.5b(f)(3)(i), a creditor must state that certain changes will be implemented as specified in the initial agreement.

Paragraph 5b(d)(4)(iii)

1.  Disclosure of conditions. In making this disclosure, the creditor may provide a highlighted copy of the document that contains such information, such as the contract or security agreement. The relevant items must be distinguished from the other information contained in the document. For example, the creditor may provide a cover sheet that specifically points out which contract provisions contain the information, or may mark the relevant items on the document itself. As an alternative to disclosing the conditions in this manner, the creditor may simply describe the conditions using the language in §§ 226.5b (f)(2)(i)--(iii), 226.5b(f)(3)(i) (regarding freezing the line when the maximum annual percentage rate is reached), and 226.5b(f)(3)(vi) or language that is substantially similar. The condition contained in § 226.5b(f)(2)(iv) need not be stated. In describing specified changes that may be implemented during the plan, the creditor may provide a disclosure such as "Our agreement permits us to make certain changes to the terms of the line at specified times or upon the occurrence of specified events."

2.  Form of disclosure. The list of conditions under § 226.5b(d)(4)(iii) may appear with the segregated disclosures or apart from them. If the creditor elects to provide the list of conditions with the segregated disclosures, the list need not comply with the precedence rule in § 226.5b(a)(2).

5b(d)(5) Payment Terms

Paragraph 5b(d)(5)(i)

1.  Length of the plan. The combined length of the draw period and any repayment period need not be stated. If the length of the repayment phase cannot be determined because, for example, it depends on the balance outstanding at the beginning of the repayment period, the creditor must state that the length is determined by the size of the balance. If the length of the plan is indefinite (for example, because there is no time limit on the period during which the consumer can take advances), the creditor must state that fact.

2.  Renewal provisions. If, under the credit agreement, a creditor retains the right to review a line at the end of the specified draw period and determine whether to renew or extend the draw period of the plan, the possibility of renewal or extension--regardless of its likelihood--should be ignored for purposes of the disclosures. For example, if an agreement provides that the draw period is five years and that the creditor may renew the draw period for an additional five years, the possibility of renewal should be ignored and the draw period should be considered five years. (See the commentary accompanying § 226.9(c)(1) dealing with change in terms requirements.)

Paragraph 5b(d)(5)(ii)

1.  Determination of the minimum periodic payment. This disclosure must reflect how the minimum periodic payment is determined, but need only describe the principal and interest components of the payment. Other charges that may be part of the payment (as well as the balance computation method) may, but need not, be described under this provision.

2.  Fixed rate and term payment options during draw period. If the home equity plan permits the consumer to repay all or part of the balance during the draw period at a fixed rate (rather than a variable rate) and over a specified time period, this feature must be disclosed. To illustrate, a variable-rate plan may permit a consumer to elect during a ten-year draw period to repay all or a portion of the balance over a three-year period at a fixed rate. The creditor must disclose the rules relating to this feature including the period during which the option can be selected, the length of time over which repayment can occur, any fees imposed for such a feature, and the specific rate or a description of the index and margin that will apply upon exercise of this choice. For example, the index and margin disclosure might state. "If you choose to convert any portion of your balance to a fixed rate, the rate will be highest prime rate published in the "Wall Street Journal" that is in effect at the date of conversion plus a margin." If the fixed rate is to be determined according to an index, it must be one that is outside the creditor's control and is publicly available in accordance with § 226.5b(f)(1). The effect of exercising the option should not be reflected elsewhere in the disclosures, such as in the historical example required in § 226.5b(d)(12)(xi).

3.  Balloon payments. In programs where the occurrence of a balloon payment is possible, the creditor must disclose the possibility of a balloon payment even if such a payment is uncertain or unlikely. In such cases, the disclosure might read, "Your minimum payments may not be sufficient to fully repay the principal that is outstanding on your line. If they are not, you will be required to pay the entire outstanding balance in a single payment." In programs where a balloon payment will occur, such as programs with interest-only payments during the draw period and no repayment period, the disclosures must state that fact. For example, the disclosure might read, "Your minimum payments will not repay the principal that is outstanding on your line. You will be required to pay the entire outstanding balance in a single payment." In making this disclosure, the creditor is not required to use the term "balloon payment." The creditor also is not required to disclose the amount of the balloon payment. (See, however, the requirement under § 226.5b(d)(5)(iii).) The balloon payment disclosure does not apply in cases where repayment of the entire outstanding balance would occur only as a result of termination and acceleration. The creditor also need not make a disclosure about balloon payments if the final payment could not be more than twice the amount of other minimum payments under the plan.

Paragraph 5b(d)(5)(iii)

1.  Minimum periodic payment example. In disclosing the payment example, the creditor may assume that the credit limit as well as the outstanding balance is $10,000 if such an assumption is relevant to calculating payments. (If the creditor only offers lines of credit for less than $10,000, the creditor may assume an outstanding balance of $5,000 instead of $10,000 in making this disclosure.) The example should reflect the payment comprised only of principal and interest. Creditors may provide an additional example reflecting other charges that may be included in the payment, such as credit insurance premiums. Creditors may assume that all months have an equal number of days, that payments are collected in whole cents, and that payments will fall on a business day even though they may be due on a non-business day. For variable-rate plans, the example must be based on the last rate in the historical example required in § 226.5b(d)(12)(xi), or a more recent rate. In cases where the last rate shown in the historical example is different from the index value and margin (for example, due to a rate cap), creditors should calculate the rate by using the index value and margin. A discounted rate may not be considered a more recent rate in calculating this payment example for either variable- or fixed-rate plans.

2.  Representative examples. In plans with multiple payment options within the draw period or within any repayment period, the creditor may provide representative examples as an alternative to providing examples for each payment option. The creditor may elect to provide representative payment examples based on three categories of payment options. The first category consists of plans that permit minimum payment of only accrued finance charges ("interest only" plans). The second category includes plans in which a fixed percentage or a fixed fraction of the outstanding balance or credit limit (for example, 2% of the balance or 1/180th of the balance) is used to determine the minimum payment. The third category includes all other types of minimum payment options, such as a specified dollar amount plus any accrued finance charges. Creditors may classify their minimum payment arrangements within one of these three categories even if other features exist, such as varying lengths of a draw or repayment period, required payment of past due amounts, late charges, and minimum dollar amounts. The creditor may use a single example within each category to represent the payment options in that category. For example, if a creditor permits minimum payments of 1%, 2%, 3%, or 4% of the outstanding balance, it may pick one of these four options and provide the example required under § 226.5b(d)(5)(iii) for that option alone.

The example used to represent a category must be an option commonly chosen by consumers, or a typical or representative example. (See the commentary to § 226.5b(d)(12) (x) and (xi) for a discussion of the use of representative examples for making those disclosures. Creditors using a representative example within each category must use the same example for purposes of the disclosures under § 226.5b(d)(5)(iii) and (d)(12 (x) and (xi).) Creditors may use representative examples under § 226.5b(d)(5) only with respect to the payment example required under paragraph (d)(5)(iii). Creditors must provide a full narrative description of all payment options under § 226.5b(d)(5) (i) and (ii).

3.  Examples for draw and repayment periods. Separate examples must be given for the draw and repayment periods unless the payments are determined the same way during both periods. In setting forth payment examples for any repayment period under this section (and the historical example under § 226.5b(d)(12)(xi)), creditors should assume a $10,000 advance is taken at the beginning of the draw period and is reduced according to the terms of the plan. Creditors should not assume an additional advance is taken at any time, including at the beginning of any repayment period.

4.  Reverse mortgages. Reverse mortgages, also known as reverse annuity or home equity conversion mortgages, in addition to permitting the consumer to obtain advances, may involve the disbursement of monthly advances to the consumer for a fixed period or until the occurrence of an event such as the consumer's death. Repayment of the reverse mortgage (generally a single payment of principal and accrued interest) may be required to be made at the end of the disbursements or, for example, upon the death of the consumer. In disclosing these plans, creditors must apply the following rules, as applicable:

• If the reverse mortgage has a specified period for advances and disbursements but repayment is due only upon occurrence of a future event such as the death of the consumer, the creditor must assume that disbursements will be made until they are scheduled to end. The creditor must assume repayment will occur when disbursements end (or within a period following the final disbursement which is not longer than the regular interval between disbursements). This assumption should be used even though repayment may occur before or after the disbursements are scheduled to end. In such cases, the creditor may include a statement such as "The disclosures assume that you will repay the line at the time the draw period and our payments to you end. As provided in your agreement, your repayment may be required at a different time." The single payment should be considered the "minimum periodic payment" and consequently would not be treated as a balloon payment. The example of the minimum payment under § 226.5b(d)(5)(iii) should assume a single $10,000 draw.

• If the reverse mortgage has neither a specified period for advances or disbursements nor a specified repayment date and these terms will be determined solely by reference to future events, including the consumer's death, the creditor may assume that the draws and disbursements will end upon the consumer's death (estimated by using actuarial tables, for example) and that repayment will be required at the same time (or within a period following the date of the final disbursement which is not longer than the regular interval for disbursements). Alternatively, the creditor may base the disclosures upon another future event it estimates will be most likely to occur first. (If terms will be determined by reference to future events which do not include the consumer's death, the creditor must base the disclosures upon the occurrence of the event estimated to be most likely to occur first.)

• In making the disclosures, the creditor must assume that all draws and disbursements and accrued interest will be paid by the consumer. For example, if the note has a non-recourse provision providing that the consumer is not obligated for an amount greater than the value of the house, the creditor must nonetheless assume that the full amount to be drawn or disbursed will be repaid. In this case, however, the creditor may include a statement such as "The disclosures assume full repayment of the amount advanced plus accrued interest, although the amount you may be required to pay is limited by your agreement."

• Some reverse mortgages provide that some or all of the appreciation in the value of the property will be shared between the consumer and the creditor. The creditor must disclose the appreciation feature, including describing how the creditor's share will be determined, any limitations, and when the feature may be exercised.

5b(d)(6) Annual Percentage Rate

1.  Preferred-rate plans. If a creditor offers a preferential fixed-rate plan in which the rate will increase a specified amount upon the occurrence of a specified event, the creditor must disclose the specific amount the rate will increase.

5b(d)(7) Fees Imposed by Creditor

1.  Applicability. The fees referred to in § 226.5b(d)(7) include items such as application fees, points, annual fees, transaction fees, fees to obtain checks to access the plan, and fees imposed for converting to a repayment phase that is provided for in the original agreement. This disclosure includes any fees that are imposed by the creditor to use or maintaining the plan, whether the fees are kept by the creditor or a third party. For example, if a creditor requires an annual credit report on the consumer and requires the consumer to pay this fee to the creditor or directly to the third party, the fee must be specifically stated. Third party fees to open the plan that are initially paid by the consumer to the creditor may be included in this disclosure or in the disclosure under § 226.5b(d)(8).

2.  Manner of describing fees. Charges may be stated as an estimated dollar amount for each fee, or as a percentage of a typical or representative amount of credit. The creditor may provide a stepped fee schedule in which a fee will increase a specified amount at a specified date. (See the discussion contained in the commentary to § 226.5b(f)(3)(i).)

3.  Fees not required to be disclosed. Fees that are not imposed to open, use, or maintain a plan, such as fees for researching an account, photocopying, paying late, stopping payment, having a check returned, exceeding the credit limit, or closing out an account do not have to be disclosed under this section. Credit report and appraisal fees imposed to investigate whether a condition permitting a freeze continues to exist--as discussed in the commentary to § 226.5b(f)(3)(vi)--are not required to be disclosed under this section or § 226.5b(d)(8).

4.  Rebates of closing costs. If closing costs are imposed they must be disclosed, regardless of whether such costs may be rebated later (for example, rebated to the extent of any interest paid during the first year of the plan).

5.  Terms used in disclosure. Creditors need not use the terms "finance charge" or "other charge" in describing the fees imposed by the creditor under this section or those imposed by third parties under § 226.5b(d)(8).

5b(d)(8) Fees Imposed by Third Parties to Open a Plan

1.  Applicability. Section 226.5b(d)(8) applies only to fees imposed by third parties to open the plan. Thus, for example, this section does not require disclosure of a fee imposed by a government agency at the end of a plan to release a security interest. Fees to be disclosed include appraisal, credit report, government agency, and attorneys fees. In cases where property insurance is required by the creditor, the creditor either may disclose the amount of the premium or may state that property insurance is required. For example, the disclosure might state, "You must carry insurance on the property that secures this plan."

2.  Itemization of third party fees. In all cases creditors must state the total of third-party fees as a single dollar amount or a range except that the total need not include costs for property insurance if the creditor discloses that such insurance is required. A creditor has two options with regard to providing the more detailed information about third party fees. Creditors may provide a statement that the consumer may request more specific cost information about third party fees from the creditor. As an alternative to including this statement, creditors may provide an itemization of such fees (by type and amount) with the early disclosures. Any itemization provided upon the consumer's request need not include a disclosure about property insurance.

3.  Manner of describing fees. A good faith estimate of the amount of fees must be provided. Creditors may provide, based on a typical or representative amount of credit, a range for such fees or state the dollar amount of such fees. Fees may be expressed on a unit cost basis, for example, $5 per $1,000 of credit.

4.  Rebates of third party fees. Even if fees imposed by third parties may be rebated, they must be disclosed. (See the commentary to § 226.5b(d)(7).)

5b(d)(9) Negative Amortization

1.  Disclosure required. In transactions where the minimum payment will not or may not be sufficient to cover the interest that accrues on the outstanding balance, the creditor must disclose that negative amortization will or may occur. This disclosure is required whether or not the unpaid interest is added to the outstanding balance upon which interest is computed. A disclosure is not required merely because a loan calls for non-amortizing or partially amortizing payments.

5b(d)(10) Transaction Requirements

1.  Applicability. A limitation on automated teller machine usage need not be disclosed under this paragraph unless that is the only means by which the consumer can obtain funds.

5b(d)(12) Disclosures for Variable-Rate Plans

1.  Variable-rate provisions. Sample forms in Appendix G--14 provide illustrative guidance on the variable-rate rules.

Paragraph 5b(d)(12)(iv)

1.  Determination of annual percentage rate. If the creditor adjusts its index through the addition of a margin, the disclosure might read, "Your annual percentage rate is based on the index plus a margin." The creditor is not required to disclose a specific value for the margin.

Paragraph 5b(d)(12)(viii)

1.  Preferred-rate provisions. This paragraph requires disclosure of preferred-rate provisions, where the rate will increase upon the occurrence of some event, such as the borrower-employee leaving the creditor's employ or the consumer closing an existing deposit account with the creditor.

2.  Provisions on conversion to fixed rates. The commentary to § 226.5b(d)(5)(ii) discusses the disclosure requirements for options permitting the consumer to convert from a variable rate to a fixed rate.

Paragraph 5b(d)(12)(ix)

1.  Periodic limitations on increases in rates. The creditor must disclose any annual limitations on increases in the annual percentage rate. If the creditor bases its rate limitation on 12 monthly billing cycles, such a limitation should be treated as an annual cap. Rate limitations imposed on less than an annual basis must be stated in terms of a specific amount of time. For example, if the creditor imposes rate limitations on only a semiannual basis, this must be expressed as a rate limitation for a six-month time period. If the creditor does not impose periodic limitations (annual or shorter) on rate increases, the fact that there are no annual rate limitations must be stated.

2.  Maximum limitations on increases in rates. The maximum annual percentage rate that may be imposed under each payment option over the term of the plan (including the draw period and any repayment period provided for in the initial agreement) must be provided. The creditor may disclose this rate as a specific number (for example, 18%) or as a specific amount above the initial rate. For example, this disclosure might read, "The maximum annual percentage rate that can apply to your line will be 5 percentage points above your initial rate." If the creditor states the maximum rate as a specific amount above the initial rate, the creditor must include a statement that the consumer should inquire about the rate limitations that are currently available. If an initial discount is not taken into account in applying maximum rate limitations, that fact must be disclosed. If separate overall limitations apply to rate increases resulting from events such as the exercise of a fixed-rate conversion option or leaving the creditor's employ, those limitations also must be stated. Limitations do not include legal limits in the nature of usury or rate ceilings under state or federal statutes or regulations.

3.  Form of disclosures. The creditor need not disclose each periodic or maximum rate limitation that is currently available. Instead, the creditor may disclose the range of the lowest and highest periodic and maximum rate limitations that may be applicable to the creditor's home equity plans. Creditors using this alternative must include a statement that the consumer should inquire about the rate limitations that are currently available.

Paragraph 5b(d)(12)(x)

1.  Maximum rate payment example. In calculating the payment creditors should assume the maximum rate is in effect. Any discounted or premium initial rates or periodic rate limitations should be ignored for purposes of this disclosure. If a range is used to disclose the maximum cap under § 226.5b(d)(12)(ix), the highest rate in the range must be used for the disclosure under this paragraph. As an alternative to making disclosures based on each payment option, the creditor may choose a representative example within the three categories of payment options upon which to base this disclosure. (See the commentary to § 226.5b(d)(5).) However, separate examples must be provided for the draw period and for any repayment period unless the payment is determined the same way in both periods. Creditors should calculate the example for the repayment period based on an assumed $10,000 balance. (See the commentary to § 226.5b(d)(5) for a discussion of the circumstances in which a creditor may use a lower outstanding balance.)

2.  Time the maximum rate could be reached. In stating the date or time when the maximum rate could be reached, creditors should assume the rate increases as rapidly as possible under the plan. In calculating the date or time, creditors should factor in any discounted or premium initial rates and periodic rate limitations. This disclosure must be provided for the draw phase and any repayment phase. Creditors should assume the index and margin shown in the last year of the historical example (or a more recent rate) is in effect at the beginning of each phase.

Paragraph 5b(d)(12)(xi)

1.  Index movement. Index values and annual percentage rates must be shown for the entire 15 years of the historical example and must be based on the most recent 15 years. The example must be updated annually to reflect the most recent 15 years of index values as soon as reasonably possible after the new index value becomes available. If the values for an index have not been available for 15 years, a creditor need only go back as far as the 4-30-93>0; FRB's Truth in Lending Official>values have been available and may start the historical example at the year for which values are first available.

2.  Selection of index values. The historical example must reflect the method of choosing index values for the plan. For example, if an average of index values is used in the plan, averages must be used in the example, but if an index value as of a particular date is used, a single index value must be shown. The creditor is required to assume one date (or one period, if an average is used) within a year on which to base the history of index values. The creditor may choose to use index values as of any date or period as long as the index value as of this date or period is used for each year in the example. Only one index value per year need be shown, even if the plan provides for adjustments to the annual percentage rate or payment more than once in a year. In such cases, the creditor can assume that the index rate remained constant for the full year for the purpose of calculating the annual percentage rate and payment.

3.  Selection of margin. A value for the margin must be assumed in order to prepare the example. A creditor may select a representative margin that it has used with the index during the six months preceding preparation of the disclosures and state that the margin is one that it has used recently. The margin selected may be used until the creditor annually updates the disclosure form to reflect the most recent 15 years of index values.

4.  Amount of discount or premium. In reflecting any discounted or premium initial rate, the creditor may select a discount or premium that it has used during the six months preceding preparation of the disclosures, and should disclose that the discount or premium is one that the creditor has used recently. The discount or premium should be reflected in the example for as long as it is in effect. The creditor may assume that a discount or premium that would have been in effect for any part of a year was in effect for the full year for purposes of reflecting it in the historical example.

5.  Rate limitations. Limitations on both periodic and maximum rates must be reflected in the historical example. If ranges of rate limitations are provided under § 226.5b(d)(12(ix), the highest rates provided in those ranges must be used in the example. Rate limitations that may apply more often than annually should be treated as if they were annual limitations. For example, if a creditor imposes a 1% cap every six months, this should be reflected in the example as if it were a 2% annual cap.

6.  Assumed advances. The creditor should assume that the $10,000 balance is an advance taken at the beginning of the first billing cycle and is reduced according to the terms of the plan, and that the consumer takes no subsequent draws. As discussed in the commentary to § 226.5b(d)(5), creditors should not assume an additional advance is taken at the beginning of any repayment period. If applicable, the creditor may assume the $10,000 is both the advance and the credit limit. (See the commentary to § 226.5b(d)(5) for a discussion of the circumstances in which a creditor may use a lower outstanding balance.)

7.  Representative payment options. The creditor need not provide an historical example for all of its various payment options, but may select a representative payment option within each of the three categories of payments upon which to base its disclosure. (See the commentary to § 226.5b(d)(5).)

8.  Payment information. The payment figures in the historical example must reflect all significant program terms. For example, features such as rate and payment caps, a discounted initial rate, negative amortization, and rate carryover must be taken into account in calculating the payment figures if these would have applied to the plan. The historical example should include payments for as much of the length of the plan as would occur during a 15-year period. For example:

• If the draw period is 10 years and the repayment period is 15 years, the example should illustrate the entire 10-year draw period and the first 5 years of the repayment period.

• If the length of the draw period is 15 years and there is a 15-year repayment phase, the historical example must reflect the payments for the 15-year draw period and would not show any of the repayment period. No additional historical example would be required to reflect payments for the repayment period.

• If the length of the plan is less than 15 years, payments in the historical example need only be shown for the number of years in the term. In such cases, however, the creditor must show the index values, margin and annual percentage rates and continue to reflect all significant plan terms such as rate limitations for the entire 15 years.

A creditor need show only a single payment per year in the example, even though payments may vary during a year. The calculations should be based on the actual payment computation formula, although the creditor may assume that all months have an equal number of days. The creditor may assume that payments are made on the last day of the billing cycle, the billing date or the payment due date, but must be consistent in the manner in which the period used to illustrate payment information is selected. Information about balloon payments and remaining balance may, but need not be reflected in the example.

9.  Disclosures for repayment period. The historical example must reflect all features of the repayment period, including the appropriate index values, margin, rate limitations, length of the repayment period, and payments. For example, if different indices are used during the draw and repayment periods, the index values for that portion of the 15 years that reflect the repayment period must be the values for the appropriate index.

10.  Reverse mortgages. The historical example for reverse mortgages should reflect 15 years of index values and annual percentage rates, but the payment column should be blank until the year that the single payment will be made, assuming that payment is estimated to occur within 15 years. (See the commentary to § 226.5b(d)(5) for a discussion of reverse mortgages.)

5b(e) Brochure

1.  Substitutes. A brochure is a suitable substitute for the Board's home equity brochure if it is, at a minimum, comparable to the Board's brochure in substance and comprehensiveness. Creditors are permitted to provide more detailed information than is contained in the Board's brochure.

2.  Effect of third party delivery of brochure. If a creditor determines that a third party has provided a consumer with the required brochure pursuant to § 226.5b(c), the creditor need not give the consumer a second brochure.

5b(f) Limitations on Home Equity Plans

1.  Coverage. Section 226.5b(f) limits both actions that may be taken and language that may be included in contracts, and applies to any assignee or holder as well as to the original creditor. The limitations apply to the draw period and any repayment period, and to any renewal or modification of the original agreement.

Paragraph 5b(f)(1)

1.  External index. A creditor may change the annual percentage rate for a plan only if the change is based on an index outside the creditor's control. Thus, a creditor may not make rate changes based on its own prime rate or cost of funds and may not reserve a contractual right to change rates at its discretion. A creditor is permitted, however, to use a published prime rate, such as that in the Wall Street Journal, even if the bank's own prime rate is one of several rates used to establish the published rate.

2.  Publicly available. The index must be available to the public. A publicly available index need not be published in a newspaper, but it must be one the consumer can independently obtain (by telephone, for example) and use to verify rates imposed under the plan.

3.  Provisions not prohibited. This paragraph does not prohibit rate changes that are specifically set forth in the agreement. For example, stepped-rate plans, in which specified rates are imposed for specified periods, are permissible. In addition, preferred-rate provisions, in which the rate increases by a specified amount upon the occurrence of a specified event, also are permissible.

Paragraph 5b(f)(2)

1.  Limitations on termination and acceleration. In general, creditors are prohibited from terminating and accelerating payment of the outstanding balance before the scheduled expiration of a plan. However, creditors may take these actions in the four circumstances specified in § 226.5b(f)(2). Creditors are not permitted to specify in their 4-30-91>0; FRB's Truth in Lending Official>contracts any other events that allow termination and acceleration beyond those permitted by the regulation. Thus, for example, an agreement may not provide that the balance is payable on demand nor may it provide that the account will be terminated and the balance accelerated if the rate cap is reached.

2.  Other actions permitted. If an event permitting termination and acceleration occurs, a creditor may instead take actions short of terminating and accelerating. For example, a creditor could temporarily or permanently suspend further advances, reduce the credit limit, change the payment terms, or require the consumer to pay a fee. A creditor also may provide in its agreement that a higher rate or higher fees will apply in circumstances under which it would otherwise be permitted to terminate the plan and accelerate the balance. A creditor that does not immediately terminate an account and accelerate payment or take another permitted action may take such action at a later time, provided one of the conditions permitting termination and acceleration exists at that time.

Paragraph 5b(f)(2)(i)

1.  Fraud or material misrepresentation. A creditor may terminate a plan and accelerate the balance if there has been fraud or material misrepresentation by the consumer in connection with the plan. This exception includes fraud or misrepresentation at any time, either during the application process or during the draw period and any repayment period. What constitutes fraud or misrepresentation is determined by applicable state law and may include acts of omission as well as overt acts, as long as any necessary intent on the part of the consumer exists.

Paragraph 5b(f)(2)(ii)

1.  Failure to meet repayment terms. A creditor may terminate a plan and accelerate the balance when the consumer fails to meet the repayment terms provided for in the agreement. However, a creditor may terminate and accelerate under this provision only if the consumer actually fails to make payments. For example, a creditor may not terminate and accelerate if the consumer, in error, sends a payment to the wrong location, such as a branch rather than the main office of the creditor. If a consumer files for or is placed in bankruptcy, the creditor may terminate and accelerate under this provision if the consumer fails to meet the repayment terms of the agreement. This section does not override any state or other law that requires a right-to-cure notice, or otherwise places a duty on the creditor before it can terminate a plan and accelerate the balance.

Paragraph 5b(f)(2)(iii)

1.  Impairment of security. A creditor may terminate a plan and accelerate the balance if the consumer's action or inaction adversely affects the creditor's security for the plan, or any right of the creditor in that security. Action or inaction by third parties does not, in itself, permit the creditor to terminate and accelerate.

2.  Examples. A creditor may terminate and accelerate, for example, if:

• The consumer transfers title to the property or sells without the permission of the creditor

• The consumer fails to maintain required insurance on the dwelling

• The consumer fails to pay taxes on the property

• The consumer permits the filing of a lien senior to that held by the creditor

• The sole consumer obligated on the plan dies

• The property is taken through eminent domain

• A prior lienholder forecloses

By contrast, the filing of a judgment against the consumer would permit termination and acceleration only if the amount of the judgment and collateral subject to the judgment is such that the creditor's security is adversely affected. If the consumer commits waste or otherwise destructively uses or fails to maintain the property such that the action adversely affects the security, the plan may be terminated and the balance accelerated. Illegal use of the property by the consumer would permit termination and acceleration if it subjects the property to seizure. If one of two consumers obligated on a plan dies the creditor may terminate the plan and accelerate the balance if the security is adversely affected. If the consumer moves out of the dwelling that secures the plan and that action adversely affects the security, the creditor may terminate a plan and accelerate the balance.

Paragraph 5b(f)(3)

1.  Scope of provision. In general, a creditor may not change the terms of a plan after it is opened. For example, a creditor may not increase any fee or impose a new fee once the plan has been opened, even if the fee is charged by a third party, such as a credit reporting agency, for a service. The change of terms prohibition applies to all features of a plan, not only those required to be disclosed under this section. For example, this provision applies to charges imposed for late payment, although this fee is not required to be disclosed under § 226.5b(d)(7).

2.  Charges not covered. There are three charges not covered by this provision. A creditor may pass on increases in taxes since such charges are imposed by a governmental body and are beyond the control of the creditor. In addition, a creditor may pass on increases in premiums for property insurance that are excluded from the finance charge under § 226.4(d)(2), since such insurance provides a benefit to the consumer independent of the use of the line and is often maintained notwithstanding the line. A creditor also may pass on increases in premiums for credit insurance that are excluded from the finance charge under § 226.4(d)(1), since the insurance is voluntary and provides a benefit to the consumer.

Paragraph 5b(f)(3)(i)

1.  Changes provided for in agreement. A creditor may provide in the initial agreement that further advances will be prohibited or the credit line reduced during any period in which the maximum annual percentage rate is reached. A creditor also may provide for other specific changes to take place upon the occurrence of specific events. Both the triggering event and the resulting modification must be stated with specificity. For example, in home equity plans for employees, the agreement could provide that a specified higher rate or margin will apply if the borrower's employment with the creditor ends. A contract could contain a stepped-rate or stepped-fee schedule providing for specified changes in the rate or the fees on certain dates or after a specified period of time. A creditor also may provide in the initial agreement that it will be entitled to a share of the appreciation in the value of the property as long as the specific appreciation share and the specific circumstances which require the payment of it are set forth. A contract may permit a consumer to switch among minimum payment options during the plan.

2.  Prohibited provisions. A creditor may not include a general provision in its agreement permitting changes to any or all of the terms of the plan. For example, creditors may not include "boilerplate" language in the agreement stating that they reserve the right to change the fees imposed under the plan. In addition, a creditor may not include any "triggering events" or responses that the regulation expressly addresses in a manner different from that provided in the regulation. For example, an agreement may not provide that the margin in a variable-rate plan will increase if there is a material change in the consumer's financial circumstances, because the regulation specifies that temporarily freezing the line or lowering the credit limit is the permissible response to a material change in the consumer's financial circumstances. Similarly a contract cannot contain a provision allowing the creditor to freeze a line due to an insignificant decline in property value since the regulation allows that response only for a significant decline.

Paragraph 5b(f)(3)(ii)

1.  Substitution of index. A creditor may change the index and margin used under the plan if the original index becomes unavailable, as long as historical fluctuations in the original and replacement indices were substantially similar, and as long as the replacement index and margin will produce a rate similar to the rate that was in effect at the time the original index became unavailable. If the replacement index is newly established and therefore does not have any rate history, it may be used if it produces a rate substantially similar to the rate in effect when the original index became unavailable. Paragraph 5b(f)(3)(iii)

1.  Changes by written agreement. A creditor may change the terms of a plan if the consumer expressly agrees in writing to the change at the time it is made. For example, a consumer and a creditor could agree in writing to change the repayment terms from interest-only payments to payments that reduce the principal balance. The provisions of any such agreement are governed by the limitations in § 226.5b(f). For example, a mutual agreement could not provide for future annual percentage rate changes based on the movement of an index controlled by the creditor or for termination and acceleration under circumstances other than those specified in the regulation. By contrast, a consumer could agree to a new credit limit for the plan, although the agreement could not permit the creditor to later change the credit limit except by a subsequent written agreement or in the circumstances described in § 226.5b(f)(3)(vi).

2.  Written agreement. The change must be agreed to in writing by the consumer. Creditors are not permitted to assume consent because the consumer uses an account, even if use of an account would otherwise constitute acceptance of a proposed change under state law.

Paragraph 5b(f)(3)(iv)

1.  Beneficial changes. After a plan is opened, a creditor may make changes that unequivocally benefit the consumer. Under this provision, a creditor may offer more options to consumers, as long as existing options remain. For example, a creditor may offer the consumer the option of making lower monthly payments or could increase the credit limit. Similarly, a creditor wishing to extend the length of the plan on the same terms may do so. Creditors are permitted to temporarily reduce the rate or fees charged during the plan (though a change in terms notice may be required under § 226.9(c) when the rate or fees are returned to their original level). Creditors also may offer an additional means of access to the line, even if fees are associated with using the device, provided the consumer retains the ability to use prior access devices on the original terms.

Paragraph 5b(f)(3)(v)

1.  Insignificant changes. A creditor is permitted to make insignificant changes after a plan is opened. This rule accommodates operational and similar problems, such as changing the address of the creditor for purposes of sending payments. It does not permit a creditor to change a term such as a fee charged for late payments.

2.  Examples of insignificant changes. Creditors may make minor changes to features such as the billing cycle date, the payment due date (as long as the consumer does not have a diminished grace period if one is provided), and the day of the month on which index values are measured to determine changes to the rate for variable-rate plans. A creditor also may change its rounding practices in accordance with the tolerance rules set forth in § 226.14 (for example, stating an exact APR of 14.3333 percent as 14.3 percent, even if it had previously been stated as 14.33 percent). A creditor may change the balance computation method it uses only if the change produces an insignificant difference in the finance charge paid by the consumer. For example, a creditor may switch from using the average daily balance method (including new transactions) to the daily balance method (including new transactions).

Paragraph 5b(f)(3)(vi)

1.  Suspension of credit privileges or reduction of credit limit. A creditor may prohibit additional extensions of credit or reduce the credit limit in the circumstances specified in this section of the regulation. In addition, as discussed under § 226.5b(f)(3)(i), a creditor may contractually reserve the right to take such actions when the maximum annual percentage rate is reached. A creditor may not take these actions under other circumstances, unless the creditor would be permitted to terminate the line and accelerate the balance as described in § 226.5b(f)(2). The creditor's right to reduce the credit limit does not permit reducing the limit below the amount of the outstanding balance if this would require the consumer to make a higher payment.

2.  Temporary nature of suspension or reduction. Creditors are permitted to prohibit additional extensions of credit or reduce the credit limit only while one of the designated circumstances exists. When the circumstance justifying the creditor's action ceases to exist, credit privileges must be reinstated, assuming that no other circumstance permitting such action exists at that time.

3.  Imposition of fees. If not prohibited by state law, a creditor may collect only bona fide and reasonable appraisal and credit report fees if such fees are actually incurred in investigating whether the condition permitting the freeze continues to exist. A creditor may not, in any circumstances, impose a fee to reinstate a credit line once the condition has been determined not to exist.

4.  Reinstatement of credit privileges. Creditors are responsible for ensuring that credit privileges are restored as soon as reasonably possible after the condition that permitted the creditor's action ceases to exist. One way a creditor can meet this responsibility is to monitor the line on an ongoing basis to determine when the condition ceases to exist. The creditor must investigate the condition frequently enough to assure itself that the condition permitting the freeze continues to exist. The frequency with which the creditor must investigate to determine whether a condition continues to exist depends upon the specific condition permitting the freeze. As an alternative to such monitoring, the creditor may shift the duty to the consumer to request reinstatement of credit privileges by providing a notice in accordance with § 226.9(c)(3). A creditor may require a reinstatement request to be in writing if it notifies the consumer of this requirement on the notice provided under § 226.9(c)(3). Once the consumer requests reinstatement, the creditor must promptly investigate to determine whether the condition allowing the freeze continues to exist. Under this alternative, the creditor has a duty to investigate only upon the consumer's request.

5.  Suspension of credit privileges following request by consumer. A creditor may honor a specific request by a consumer to suspend credit privileges. If the consumer later requests that the creditor reinstate credit privileges, the creditor must do so provided no other circumstance justifying a suspension exists at that time. If two or more consumers are obligated under a plan and each has the ability to take advances, the agreement may permit any of the consumers to direct the creditor not to make further advances. A creditor may require that all persons obligated under a plan request reinstatement.

6.  Significant decline defined. What constitutes a significant decline for purposes of § 226.5b(f)(3)(vi)(A) will vary according to individual circumstances. In any event, if the value of the dwelling declines such that the initial difference between the credit limit and the available equity (based on the property's appraised value for purposes of the plan) is reduced by fifty percent, this constitutes a significant decline in the value of the dwelling for purposes of § 226.5b(f)(3)(vi)(A). For example, assume that a house with a first mortgage of $50,000 is appraised at $100,000 and the credit limit is $30,000. The difference between the credit limit and the available equity is $20,000, half of which is $10,000. The creditor could prohibit further advances or reduce the credit limit if the value of the property declines from $100,000 to $90,000. This provision does not require a creditor to obtain an appraisal before suspending credit privileges although a significant decline must occur before suspension can occur.

7.  Material change in financial circumstances. Two conditions must be met for § 226.5b(f)(3)(vi)(B) to apply. First, there must be a "material change" in the consumer's financial circumstances, such as a significant decrease in the consumer's income. Second, as a result of this change, the creditor must have a reasonable belief that the consumer will be unable to fulfill the payment obligations of the plan. A creditor may, but does not have to, rely on specific evidence (such as the failure to pay other debts) in concluding that the second part of the test has been met. A creditor may prohibit further advances or reduce the credit limit under this section if a consumer files for or is placed in bankruptcy.

8.  Default of a material obligation. Creditors may specify events that would qualify as a default of a material obligation under § 226.5b(f)(3)(vi)(C). For example, a creditor may provide that default of a material obligation will exist if the consumer moves out of the dwelling or permits an intervening lien to be filed that would take priority over future advances made by the creditor.

9.  Government limits on the annual percentage rate. Under § 226.5b(f)(3)(vi)(D), a creditor may prohibit further advances or reduce the credit limit if, for example, a state usury law is enacted which prohibits a creditor from imposing the agreed-upon annual percentage rate.

5b(g) Refund of fees

1.  Refund of fees required. If any disclosed term, including any term provided upon request pursuant to § 226.5b(d), changes between the time the early disclosures are provided to the consumer and the time the plan is opened, and the consumer as a result decides to not enter into the plan, a creditor must refund all fees paid by the consumer in connection with the application. All fees, including credit report fees and appraisal fees, must be refunded whether such fees are paid to the creditor or directly to third parties. A consumer is entitled to a refund of fees under these circumstances whether or not terms are guaranteed by the creditor under § 226.5b(d)(2)(i).

2.  Variable-rate plans. The right to a refund of fees does not apply to changes in the annual percentage rate resulting from fluctuations in the index value in a variable-rate plan. Also, if the maximum annual percentage rate is expressed as an amount over the initial rate, the right to refund of fees would not apply to changes in the cap resulting from fluctuations in the index value.

3.  Changes in terms. If a term, such as the maximum rate, is stated as a range in the early disclosures, and the term ultimately applicable to the plan falls within that range, a change does not occur for purposes of this section. If, however, no range is used and the term is changed (for example, a rate cap of 6 rather than 5 percentage points over the initial rate), the change would permit the consumer to obtain a refund of fees. If a fee imposed by the creditor is stated in the early disclosures as an estimate and the fee changes, the consumer could elect to not enter into the agreement and would be entitled to a refund of fees. On the other hand, if fees imposed by third parties are disclosed as estimates and those fees change, the consumer is not entitled to a refund of fees paid in connection with the application. Creditors must, however, use the best information reasonably available in providing disclosures about such fees.

4.  Timing of refunds and relation to other provisions. The refund of fees must be made as soon as reasonably possible after the creditor is notified that the consumer is not entering into the plan because of the changed term, or that the consumer wants a refund of fees. The fact that an application fee may be refunded to some applicants under this provision does not render such fees finance charges under § 226.4(c)(1) of the regulation.

5b(h) Imposition of Nonrefundable Fees

1.  Collection of fees after consumer receives disclosures. A fee may be collected after the consumer receives the disclosures and brochure and before the expiration of three days, although the fee must be refunded if, within three days of receiving the required information, the consumer decides to not enter into the agreement. In such a case, the consumer must be notified that the fee is refundable for three days. The notice must be clear and conspicuous and in writing, and may be included with the disclosures required under § 226.5b(d) or as an attachment to them. If disclosures and brochure are mailed to the consumer, footnote 10d of the regulation provides that a nonrefundable fee may not be imposed until six business days after the mailing.

2.  Collection of fees before consumer receives disclosures. An application fee may be collected before the consumer receives the disclosures and brochure (for example, when an application contained in a magazine is mailed in with an application fee) provided that it remains refundable until three business days after the consumer receives the § 226.5b disclosures. No other fees except a refundable membership fee may be collected until after the consumer receives the disclosures required under § 226.5b.

3.  Relation to other provisions. A fee collected before disclosures are provided may become nonrefundable except that, under § 226.5b(g), it must be refunded if the consumer elects to not enter into the plan because of a change in terms. (Of course, all fees must be refunded if the consumer later rescinds under § 226.15.) References

Statute:  Secs. 121(a) through (c), 122(a) and (b), 124, 127(a) and (b), and 163(a).

Other sections:  Secs. 226.6, 226.7, and 226.9.

Previous regulation:  Secs. 226.6(a) and (c) through (g), and 226.7(a) through (c).

1981 changes:  Section 226.5 implements amendments to the act and reflects several simplifying changes to the regulation. The use of required terminology, except for "finance charge" and "annual percentage rate," is no longer required. Type size requirements have been deleted. Initial and periodic statement disclosures may be multi-page, so long as they constitute an integrated statement. New rules are provided for the basis of disclosures and for the use of estimates. The rules for credit plans involving multiple creditors or multiple consumers now provide that only one creditor need make the disclosures and that the disclosures need be made to only one primarily liable consumer.


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Last updated December 3, 2009 regs@fdic.gov