A New Consumer Primer Just in Time for the Holidays


Consumer Action (CA) has done it again! In conjunction with American Express (AE), they have now produced what I consider a primer for all consumers: Credit Cards: What You Need To Know. This 12 page booklet is available for download as a PDF file at the Consumer Action website. Additionally, a printed booklet is available to community based agencies.

The very well organized and easy to read work includes everything a consumer should know about credit cards, such as:

  • Understanding the types of cards available.
  • How to sort through card offers.
  • How to compare terms and conditions.
  • How to avoid penalties and fees.

Individuals can also request a summary brochure on this publication in English, Spanish and some Asian languages by writing to (include a self-addressed stamped envelope):

Consumer Action
717 Market Street Suite 310
San Francisco CA. 94103

I caught up with Linda Sherry at CA's headquarters in Washington D.C. Linda is the Director of National Priorities for Consumer Action.

I asked her, "Realizing this file is written in conjunction with American Express, how did this publication develop? Who and what was the motivation behind it? How long has it been in the development stage?"


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"This is a financial education partnership with American Express. It has been in development for a remarkably short time, since May. We have worked with AE on similar projects and have a very good productive working relationship with the company's consumer affairs division. We settled on this project because of our mutual interest in educating consumers on the topic."


I was very fortunate to have a sneak preview of the publication for this article. And so I asked, "The file indicates there is a brochure and PDF training guide that outlines a two-hour training with worksheets and suggested class activities. How can folks get these items?"


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"They are both available on our website now. The brochure has been printed but we are waiting for the final legal approval from American Express to print the large booklet in which CardRatings.com is mentioned."


I also asked Linda about copyright restrictions after reading the phrase "may be freely reproduced by those engaged in educational work."


consumerreviewspic"We allow any nonprofit or community based organization to use the materials in this way. We also are quite permissive about for-profits that are engaged in educational outreach or in partnerships with nonprofit or community based organizations. When we enter a partnership, contract or grant process with a funder, Consumer Action always builds in the fact that the materials are free and available in bulk to nonprofit and community based organizations.

We are always willing to send any of our brochures to individuals who send a SASE. And since the advent of the WWW, of course all our materials are available online at no charge. In addition, on an individualized basis, our Power Point slides and curriculums can be edited to suit the teacher or the community. In this case, interested people have to send me an e-mail at editor@consumer-action.org to request the curriculum in a Word version."


I concluded my conversation with Linda by asking if she had anything else our readers should be aware of.


cardbenefits"Consumer Action is dedicated to providing free, multilingual consumer education materials through our partnerships with major corporations and government agencies. We distribute our materials on a request basis through our national network of 8,000 community based organizations.

Order forms for all available projects are on our web site- follow the Order Publications link at bottom of home page. We also encourage anyone with a complaint about a credit card to send it to hotline@consumer-action.org, where they will receive non-legal advice and referrals about how to proceed with their complaint."


Be sure to also review the free credit educational materials offered by CardRatings.com. Finally, we welcome your comments about credit card issues in our popular credit forum!