Credit card issuers struggling to comply with the Carter Administration's efforts to curb consumer borrowing will meet with Federal Reserve officials today to learn details of the government program.
Executives of credit cards companies department stores, gasoline refiners and other consumer credit sources have been invited to meet with Federal Reserve Board officials, who held a similar session with bankers on Monday.
Like the meeting with bankers, the retailers session will be closed to the public and press.
The session is supposed to give credit issuers guidance on crucial questions that ultimately will affect the monthly credit card bills of millions of Americans.
In its latest effort to control inflation, the Federal Reserve on Friday put a cap on the amount of credit consumer lenders can extend without facing penalties. If the creditors increase the amount they lend beyond what it was last Friday, they must put 15 percent of the excess into a non-interest-bearing bank account.
To comply with the government order, credit card companies are planning to increase their minimum monthly payments, slap on new service charges and limit the amount customers can charge on their cards.
The regulations issued by the Federal Reserve include important exemptions that will allow holders of some credit cards to continue to use them without restriction.
The consumer credit regulations do not cover business expenses that are charged on credit cards. That means business people can continue to use their cards to pay for lunches, travel and entertainment without penalty.
Executives of Americans Express Co. yesterday denied a report in The Washington Post Tuesday that they plan to seek an exemption from the controls for business expenses charged on American Express Cards.
The way the regulations are written American Express will not have to apply for an exemption, because business charges are already exempt.
American Express officials say at least 50 percent of what is charged on their cards is for business and the figure may be as high as 80 percent.
American Express, however, will have to prove to the Federal Reserve what portion of its charges are for business. Company officials said they are gathering that data now and will submit it to the Federal Reserve as soon as possible.
American Express and Diner's Club also contend use of the cards is not extending credit to consumers, because the entire amount is due each month. The company said, however, that it will comply with the Administration program.
Credit card issuers also face problems sorting out charges that are exempt rrom the new restrictions from charges that are covered.
Under the Federal Reserve rules, the limits do not apply to the purchase of items that are used as security for the credit. When a consumer buys a car, a refrigerator or another major item on credit, the loan agreement usually gives the lender a claim on the collateral until the purchase is paid for.
That could create problems for department stores, whose charge accounts often include major purchases that are exempt from the restrictions and minor purchases that are not exempt. It could mean, merchants complain, that a customer can charge a $500 refrigerator, but not a $5 shirt.
Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker yesterday refused to take sides on another question raised by the new rules.
One way some credit issuers are considering complying with the limit on credit is to slap what amounts to an interest surcharge on purchases that exceed the March 14 credit ceiling.
That, however, could push the interest rates on the cards above the maximum permitted by state usery laws. Some lenders say they will ask the federal government to temporarily set aside the state usuary laws so they can charge whatever interest they want.
Wolker declined to answer a question about whether he favors pre-empting the state usuary laws. Congress will have to decide that, he said.