A second wave of new credit card regulations go into effect Feb. 22. These new rules for credit card companies mean new protections for you! Here are some of the key changes you should expect:

1. Your credit card company has to tell you:

When they plan to increase your rate or other fees. The company must send you a notice 45 days before they can increase your rate, change certain fees or make other significant changes to your card. You have the option to cancel the card before certain fee increases take effect, but if you take that option, the credit card company may close your account and increase your monthly payment on any remaining balance.How long it will take to pay off your balance. Your monthly bill will now include information on how long it will take you to pay off your balance if you only make minimum payments. It will also tell you how much you'd have to pay monthly in order to pay off your balance in three years.

2. Your card company cannot increase your interest rate for the first 12 months after you open an account. There are some exceptions, so read the fine print! If your rate does go up after the first year, the new rate will apply only to new purchases. The old rate will still apply to old balances.

3. Protection for underage consumers. If a young person is under age 21, they have to show that they are able to make payments, or they will need a co-signer to open a charge account (this provides protection against those mail offers that flood students).

4. Standard payment dates and times. Your bill must be mailed at least 21 days before the payment is due and it should always be due on the same day of the month. Payment cut-off times cannot be earlier than 5 p.m., and additional protections apply for weekend or holiday due dates.

For more details on these credit card changes, see the Federal Reserve Web site at www.federalreserve.gov/consumerinfo/wyntk/creditcardrules.htm.

The average American family holds five or more credit cards and has an unpaid balance of nearly $8,000. Good credit management is critical to the financial security of families in debt. This is a good time to learn more about these new credit card rules and take advantage of the protections which they provide.

For more helpful information for consumers, see my blog "Living Well" at SWKTalk.com.