Comment for 1026.4 - Finance Charge
1. Charges in comparable cash transactions. Charges imposed uniformly in cash and credit transactions are not finance charges. In determining whether an item is a finance charge, the creditor should compare the credit transaction in question with a similar cash transaction. A creditor financing the sale of property or services may compare charges with those payable in a similar cash transaction by the seller of the property or service.
i. For example, the following items are not finance charges:
A. Taxes, license fees, or registration fees paid by both cash and credit customers.
B. Discounts that are available to cash and credit customers, such as quantity discounts.
C. Discounts available to a particular group of consumers because they meet certain criteria, such as being members of an organization or having accounts at a particular financial institution. This is the case even if an individual must pay cash to obtain the discount, provided that credit customers who are members of the group and do not qualify for the discount pay no more than the nonmember cash customers.
D. Charges for a service policy, auto club membership, or policy of insurance against latent defects offered to or required of both cash and credit customers for the same price.
ii. In contrast, the following items are finance charges:
A. Inspection and handling fees for the staged disbursement of construction-loan proceeds.
B. Fees for preparing a Truth in Lending disclosure statement, if permitted by law (for example, the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act prohibits such charges in certain transactions secured by real property).
C. Charges for a required maintenance or service contract imposed only in a credit transaction.
iii. If the charge in a credit transaction exceeds the charge imposed in a comparable cash transaction, only the difference is a finance charge. For example:
A. If an escrow agent is used in both cash and credit sales of real estate and the agent's charge is $100 in a cash transaction and $150 in a credit transaction, only $50 is a finance charge.
2. Costs of doing business. Charges absorbed by the creditor as a cost of doing business are not finance charges, even though the creditor may take such costs into consideration in determining the interest rate to be charged or the cash price of the property or service sold. However, if the creditor separately imposes a charge on the consumer to cover certain costs, the charge is a finance charge if it otherwise meets the definition. For example:
i. A discount imposed on a credit obligation when it is assigned by a seller-creditor to another party is not a finance charge as long as the discount is not separately imposed on the consumer. (See § 1026.4(b)(6).)
ii. A tax imposed by a state or other governmental body on a creditor is not a finance charge if the creditor absorbs the tax as a cost of doing business and does not separately impose the tax on the consumer. (For additional discussion of the treatment of taxes, see other commentary to § 1026.4(a).)
3. Forfeitures of interest. If the creditor reduces the interest rate it pays or stops paying interest on the consumer's deposit account or any portion of it for the term of a credit transaction (including, for example, an overdraft on a checking account or a loan secured by a certificate of deposit), the interest lost is a finance charge. (See the commentary to § 1026.4(c)(6).) For example:
i. A consumer borrows $5,000 for 90 days and secures it with a $10,000 certificate of deposit paying 15% interest. The creditor charges the consumer an interest rate of 6% on the loan and stops paying interest on $5,000 of the $10,000 certificate for the term of the loan. The interest lost is a finance charge and must be reflected in the annual percentage rate on the loan.
ii. However, the consumer must be entitled to the interest that is not paid in order for the lost interest to be a finance charge. For example:
A. A consumer wishes to buy from a financial institution a $10,000 certificate of deposit paying 15% interest but has only $4,000. The financial institution offers to lend the consumer $6,000 at an interest rate of 6% but will pay the 15% interest only on the amount of the consumer's deposit, $4,000. The creditor's failure to pay interest on the $6,000 does not result in an additional finance charge on the extension of credit, provided the consumer is entitled by the deposit agreement with the financial institution to interest only on the amount of the consumer's deposit.
B. A consumer enters into a combined time deposit/credit agreement with a financial institution that establishes a time deposit account and an open-end line of credit. The line of credit may be used to borrow against the funds in the time deposit. The agreement provides for an interest rate on any credit extension of, for example, 1%. In addition, the agreement states that the creditor will pay 0% interest on the amount of the time deposit that corresponds to the amount of the credit extension(s). The interest that is not paid on the time deposit by the financial institution is not a finance charge (and therefore does not affect the annual percentage rate computation).
4. Treatment of transaction fees on credit card plans. Any transaction charge imposed on a cardholder by a card issuer is a finance charge, regardless of whether the issuer imposes the same, greater, or lesser charge on withdrawals of funds from an asset account such as a checking or savings account. For example:
i. Any charge imposed on a credit cardholder by a card issuer for the use of an automated teller machine (ATM) to obtain a cash advance (whether in a proprietary, shared, interchange, or other system) is a finance charge regardless of whether the card issuer imposes a charge on its debit cardholders for using the ATM to withdraw cash from a consumer asset account, such as a checking or savings account.
ii. Any charge imposed on a credit cardholder for making a purchase or obtaining a cash advance outside the United States, with a foreign merchant, or in a foreign currency is a finance charge, regardless of whether a charge is imposed on debit cardholders for such transactions. The following principles apply in determining what is a foreign transaction fee and the amount of the fee:
A. Included are (1) fees imposed when transactions are made in a foreign currency and converted to U.S. dollars; (2) fees imposed when transactions are made in U.S. dollars outside the U.S.; and (3) fees imposed when transactions are made (whether in a foreign currency or in U.S. dollars) with a foreign merchant, such as via a merchant's Web site. For example, a consumer may use a credit card to make a purchase in Bermuda, in U.S. dollars, and the card issuer may impose a fee because the transaction took place outside the United States.
B. Included are fees imposed by the card issuer and fees imposed by a third party that performs the conversion, such as a credit card network or the card issuer's corporate parent. (For example, in a transaction processed through a credit card network, the network may impose a 1 percent charge and the card-issuing bank may impose an additional 2 percent charge, for a total of a 3 percentage point foreign transaction fee being imposed on the consumer.)
C. Fees imposed by a third party are included only if they are directly passed on to the consumer. For example, if a credit card network imposes a 1 percent fee on the card issuer, but the card issuer absorbs the fee as a cost of doing business (and only passes it on to consumers in the general sense that the interest and fees are imposed on all its customers to recover its costs), then the fee is not a foreign transaction fee and need not be disclosed. In another example, if the credit card network imposes a 1 percent fee for a foreign transaction on the card issuer, and the card issuer imposes this same fee on the consumer who engaged in the foreign transaction, then the fee is a foreign transaction fee and a finance charge.
D. A card issuer is not required to disclose a fee imposed by a merchant. For example, if the merchant itself performs the currency conversion and adds a fee, this fee need not be disclosed by the card issuer. Under § 1026.9(d), a card issuer is not obligated to disclose finance charges imposed by a party honoring a credit card, such as a merchant, although the merchant is required to disclose such a finance charge if the merchant is subject to the Truth in Lending Act and Regulation Z.
E. The foreign transaction fee is determined by first calculating the dollar amount of the transaction by using a currency conversion rate outside the card issuer's and third party's control. Any amount in excess of that dollar amount is a foreign transaction fee. Conversion rates outside the card issuer's and third party's control include, for example, a rate selected from the range of rates available in the wholesale currency exchange markets, an average of the highest and lowest rates available in such markets, or a government-mandated or government-managed exchange rate (or a rate selected from a range of such rates).
F. The rate used for a particular transaction need not be the same rate that the card issuer (or third party) itself obtains in its currency conversion operations. In addition, the rate used for a particular transaction need not be the rate in effect on the date of the transaction (purchase or cash advance).
i. Generally, a tax imposed by a state or other governmental body solely on a creditor is a finance charge if the creditor separately imposes the charge on the consumer.
ii. In contrast, a tax is not a finance charge (even if it is collected by the creditor) if applicable law imposes the tax:
A. Solely on the consumer;
B. On the creditor and the consumer jointly;
C. On the credit transaction, without indicating which party is liable for the tax; or
D. On the creditor, if applicable law directs or authorizes the creditor to pass the tax on to the consumer. (For purposes of this section, if applicable law is silent as to passing on the tax, the law is deemed not to authorize passing it on.)
iii. For example, a stamp tax, property tax, intangible tax, or any other state or local tax imposed on the consumer, or on the credit transaction, is not a finance charge even if the tax is collected by the creditor.
iv. In addition, a tax is not a finance charge if it is excluded from the finance charge by another provision of the regulation or commentary (for example, if the tax is imposed uniformly in cash and credit transactions).
4(a)(1) Charges by Third Parties
1. Choosing the provider of a required service. An example of a third-party charge included in the finance charge is the cost of required mortgage insurance, even if the consumer is allowed to choose the insurer.
2. Annuities associated with reverse mortgages. Some creditors offer annuities in connection with a reverse-mortgage transaction. The amount of the premium is a finance charge if the creditor requires the purchase of the annuity incident to the credit. Examples include the following:
i. The credit documents reflect the purchase of an annuity from a specific provider or providers.
ii. The creditor assesses an additional charge on consumers who do not purchase an annuity from a specific provider.
iii. The annuity is intended to replace in whole or in part the creditor's payments to the consumer either immediately or at some future date.
4(a)(2) Special Rule; Closing Agent Charges
1. General. This rule applies to charges by a third party serving as the closing agent for the particular loan. An example of a closing agent charge included in the finance charge is a courier fee where the creditor requires the use of a courier.
2. Required closing agent. If the creditor requires the use of a closing agent, fees charged by the closing agent are included in the finance charge only if the creditor requires the particular service, requires the imposition of the charge, or retains a portion of the charge. Fees charged by a third-party closing agent may be otherwise excluded from the finance charge under § 1026.4. For example, a fee that would be paid in a comparable cash transaction may be excluded under § 1026.4(a). A charge for conducting or attending a closing is a finance charge and may be excluded only if the charge is included in and is incidental to a lump-sum fee excluded under § 1026.4(c)(7).
4(a)(3) Special Rule; Mortgage Broker Fees
1. General. A fee charged by a mortgage broker is excluded from the finance charge if it is the type of fee that is also excluded when charged by the creditor. For example, to exclude an application fee from the finance charge under § 1026.4(c)(1), a mortgage broker must charge the fee to all applicants for credit, whether or not credit is extended.
2. Coverage. This rule applies to charges paid by consumers to a mortgage broker in connection with a consumer credit transaction secured by real property or a dwelling.
3. Compensation by lender. The rule requires all mortgage broker fees to be included in the finance charge. Creditors sometimes compensate mortgage brokers under a separate arrangement with those parties. Creditors may draw on amounts paid by the consumer, such as points or closing costs, to fund their payment to the broker. Compensation paid by a creditor to a mortgage broker under an agreement is not included as a separate component of a consumer's total finance charge (although this compensation may be reflected in the finance charge if it comes from amounts paid by the consumer to the creditor that are finance charges, such as points and interest).
4(b) Examples of Finance Charges
1. Relationship to other provisions. Charges or fees shown as examples of finance charges in § 1026.4(b) may be excludable under § 1026.4(c), (d), or (e). For example:
i. Premiums for credit life insurance, shown as an example of a finance charge under § 1026.4(b)(7), may be excluded if the requirements of § 1026.4(d)(1) are met.
ii. Appraisal fees mentioned in § 1026.4(b)(4) are excluded for real property or residential mortgage transactions under § 1026.4(c)(7).
1. Checking account charges. A checking or transaction account charge imposed in connection with a credit feature is a finance charge under § 1026.4(b)(2) to the extent the charge exceeds the charge for a similar account without a credit feature. If a charge for an account with a credit feature does not exceed the charge for an account without a credit feature, the charge is not a finance charge under § 1026.4(b)(2). To illustrate:
i. A $5 service charge is imposed on an account with an overdraft line of credit (where the institution has agreed in writing to pay an overdraft), while a $3 service charge is imposed on an account without a credit feature; the $2 difference is a finance charge. (If the difference is not related to account activity, however, it may be excludable as a participation fee. See the commentary to § 1026.4(c)(4).)
ii. A $5 service charge is imposed for each item that results in an overdraft on an account with an overdraft line of credit, while a $25 service charge is imposed for paying or returning each item on a similar account without a credit feature; the $5 charge is not a finance charge.
1. Assumption fees. The assumption fees mentioned in § 1026.4(b)(3) are finance charges only when the assumption occurs and the fee is imposed on the new buyer. The assumption fee is a finance charge in the new buyer's transaction.
1. Credit loss insurance. Common examples of the insurance against credit loss mentioned in § 1026.4(b)(5) are mortgage guaranty insurance, holder in due course insurance, and repossession insurance. Such premiums must be included in the finance charge only for the period that the creditor requires the insurance to be maintained.
2. Residual value insurance. Where a creditor requires a consumer to maintain residual value insurance or where the creditor is a beneficiary of a residual value insurance policy written in connection with an extension of credit (as is the case in some forms of automobile balloon-payment financing, for example), the premiums for the insurance must be included in the finance charge for the period that the insurance is to be maintained. If a creditor pays for residual-value insurance and absorbs the payment as a cost of doing business, such costs are not considered finance charges. (See comment 4(a)-2.)
Paragraphs 4(b)(7) and (b)(8)
1. Pre-existing insurance policy. The insurance discussed in § 1026.4(b)(7) and (b)(8) does not include an insurance policy (such as a life or an automobile collision insurance policy) that is already owned by the consumer, even if the policy is assigned to or otherwise made payable to the creditor to satisfy an insurance requirement. Such a policy is not “written in connection with” the transaction, as long as the insurance was not purchased for use in that credit extension, since it was previously owned by the consumer.
2. Insurance written in connection with a transaction. Credit insurance sold before or after an open-end (not home-secured) plan is opened is considered “written in connection with a credit transaction.” Insurance sold after consummation in closed-end credit transactions or after the opening of a home-equity plan subject to the requirements of § 1026.40 is not considered “written in connection with” the credit transaction if the insurance is written because of the consumer's default (for example, by failing to obtain or maintain required property insurance) or because the consumer requests insurance after consummation or the opening of a home-equity plan subject to the requirements of § 1026.40 (although credit-sale disclosures may be required for the insurance sold after consummation if it is financed).
3. Substitution of life insurance. The premium for a life insurance policy purchased and assigned to satisfy a credit life insurance requirement must be included in the finance charge, but only to the extent of the cost of the credit life insurance if purchased from the creditor or the actual cost of the policy (if that is less than the cost of the insurance available from the creditor). If the creditor does not offer the required insurance, the premium to be included in the finance charge is the cost of a policy of insurance of the type, amount, and term required by the creditor.
4. Other insurance. Fees for required insurance not of the types described in § 1026.4(b)(7) and (b)(8) are finance charges and are not excludable. For example, the premium for a hospitalization insurance policy, if it is required to be purchased only in a credit transaction, is a finance charge.
1. Discounts for payment by other than credit. The discounts to induce payment by other than credit mentioned in § 1026.4(b)(9) include, for example, the following situation: The seller of land offers individual tracts for $10,000 each. If the purchaser pays cash, the price is $9,000, but if the purchaser finances the tract with the seller the price is $10,000. The $1,000 difference is a finance charge for those who buy the tracts on credit.
2. Exception for cash discounts.
i. Creditors may exclude from the finance charge discounts offered to consumers for using cash or another means of payment instead of using a credit card or an open-end plan. The discount may be in whatever amount the seller desires, either as a percentage of the regular price (as defined in section 103(z) of the Act, as amended) or a dollar amount. Pursuant to section 167(b) of the Act, this provision applies only to transactions involving an open-end credit plan or a credit card (whether open-end or closed-end credit is extended on the card). The merchant must offer the discount to prospective buyers whether or not they are cardholders or members of the open-end credit plan. The merchant may, however, make other distinctions. For example:
A. The merchant may limit the discount to payment by cash and not offer it for payment by check or by use of a debit card.
B. The merchant may establish a discount plan that allows a 15% discount for payment by cash, a 10% discount for payment by check, and a 5% discount for payment by a particular credit card. None of these discounts is a finance charge.
ii. Pursuant to section 171(c) of the Act, discounts excluded from the finance charge under this paragraph are also excluded from treatment as a finance charge or other charge for credit under any state usury or disclosure laws.
3. Determination of the regular price.
i. The regular price is critical in determining whether the difference between the price charged to cash customers and credit customers is a discount or a surcharge, as these terms are defined in amended section 103 of the Act. The regular price is defined in section 103 of the Act as —
* * * the tag or posted price charged for the property or service if a single price is tagged or posted, or the price charged for the property or service when payment is made by use of an open-end credit account or a credit card if either (1) no price is tagged or posted, or (2) two prices are tagged or posted
* * * .
ii. For example, in the sale of motor vehicle fuel, the tagged or posted price is the price displayed at the pump. As a result, the higher price (the open-end credit or credit card price) must be displayed at the pump, either alone or along with the cash price. Service station operators may designate separate pumps or separate islands as being for either cash or credit purchases and display only the appropriate prices at the various pumps. If a pump is capable of displaying on its meter either a cash or a credit price depending upon the consumer's means of payment, both the cash price and the credit price must be displayed at the pump. A service station operator may display the cash price of fuel by itself on a curb sign, as long as the sign clearly indicates that the price is limited to cash purchases.
1. Definition. Debt cancellation coverage provides for payment or satisfaction of all or part of a debt when a specified event occurs. The term “debt cancellation coverage” includes guaranteed automobile protection, or “GAP,” agreements, which pay or satisfy the remaining debt after property insurance benefits are exhausted. Debt suspension coverage provides for suspension of the obligation to make one or more payments on the date(s) otherwise required by the credit agreement, when a specified event occurs. The term “debt suspension” does not include loan payment deferral arrangements in which the triggering event is the bank's unilateral decision to allow a deferral of payment and the borrower's unilateral election to do so, such as by skipping or reducing one or more payments (“skip payments”).
2. Coverage written in connection with a transaction. Coverage sold after consummation in closed-end credit transactions or after the opening of a home-equity plan subject to the requirements of § 1026.40 is not “written in connection with” the credit transaction if the coverage is written because the consumer requests coverage after consummation or the opening of a home-equity plan subject to the requirements of § 1026.40 (although credit-sale disclosures may be required for the coverage sold after consummation if it is financed). Coverage sold before or after an open-end (not home-secured) plan is opened is considered “written in connection with a credit transaction.”
4(c) Charges Excluded From the Finance Charge
1. Application fees. An application fee that is excluded from the finance charge is a charge to recover the costs associated with processing applications for credit. The fee may cover the costs of services such as credit reports, credit investigations, and appraisals. The creditor is free to impose the fee in only certain of its loan programs, such as mortgage loans. However, if the fee is to be excluded from the finance charge under § 1026.4(c)(1), it must be charged to all applicants, not just to applicants who are approved or who actually receive credit.
1. Late payment charges.
i. Late payment charges can be excluded from the finance charge under § 1026.4(c)(2) whether or not the person imposing the charge continues to extend credit on the account or continues to provide property or services to the consumer. In determining whether a charge is for actual unanticipated late payment on a 30-day account, for example, factors to be considered include:
A. The terms of the account. For example, is the consumer required by the account terms to pay the account balance in full each month? If not, the charge may be a finance charge.
B. The practices of the creditor in handling the accounts. For example, regardless of the terms of the account, does the creditor allow consumers to pay the accounts over a period of time without demanding payment in full or taking other action to collect? If no effort is made to collect the full amount due, the charge may be a finance charge.
ii. section 1026.4(c)(2) applies to late payment charges imposed for failure to make payments as agreed, as well as failure to pay an account in full when due.
2. Other excluded charges. Charges for “delinquency, default, or a similar occurrence” include, for example, charges for reinstatement of credit privileges or for submitting as payment a check that is later returned unpaid.
1. Assessing interest on an overdraft balance. A charge on an overdraft balance computed by applying a rate of interest to the amount of the overdraft is not a finance charge, even though the consumer agrees to the charge in the account agreement, unless the financial institution agrees in writing that it will pay such items.
1. Participation fees - periodic basis. The participation fees described in § 1026.4(c)(4) do not necessarily have to be formal membership fees, nor are they limited to credit card plans. The provision applies to any credit plan in which payment of a fee is a condition of access to the plan itself, but it does not apply to fees imposed separately on individual closed-end transactions. The fee may be charged on a monthly, annual, or other periodic basis; a one-time, non-recurring fee imposed at the time an account is opened is not a fee that is charged on a periodic basis, and may not be treated as a participation fee.
2. Participation fees - exclusions. Minimum monthly charges, charges for non-use of a credit card, and other charges based on either account activity or the amount of credit available under the plan are not excluded from the finance charge by § 1026.4(c)(4). Thus, for example, a fee that is charged and then refunded to the consumer based on the extent to which the consumer uses the credit available would be a finance charge. (See the commentary to § 1026.4(b)(2). Also, see comment 14(c)-2 for treatment of certain types of fees excluded in determining the annual percentage rate for the periodic statement.)
1. Seller's points. The seller's points mentioned in § 1026.4(c)(5) include any charges imposed by the creditor upon the noncreditor seller of property for providing credit to the buyer or for providing credit on certain terms. These charges are excluded from the finance charge even if they are passed on to the buyer, for example, in the form of a higher sales price. Seller's points are frequently involved in real estate transactions guaranteed or insured by governmental agencies. A commitment fee paid by a noncreditor seller (such as a real estate developer) to the creditor should be treated as seller's points. Buyer's points (that is, points charged to the buyer by the creditor), however, are finance charges.
2. Other seller-paid amounts. Mortgage insurance premiums and other finance charges are sometimes paid at or before consummation or settlement on the borrower's behalf by a noncreditor seller. The creditor should treat the payment made by the seller as seller's points and exclude it from the finance charge if, based on the seller's payment, the consumer is not legally bound to the creditor for the charge. A creditor who gives disclosures before the payment has been made should base them on the best information reasonably available.
1. Lost interest. Certain Federal and state laws mandate a percentage differential between the interest rate paid on a deposit and the rate charged on a loan secured by that deposit. In some situations, because of usury limits the creditor must reduce the interest rate paid on the deposit and, as a result, the consumer loses some of the interest that would otherwise have been earned. Under § 1026.4(c)(6), such “lost interest” need not be included in the finance charge. This rule applies only to an interest reduction imposed because a rate differential is required by law and a usury limit precludes compliance by any other means. If the creditor imposes a differential that exceeds that required, only the lost interest attributable to the excess amount is a finance charge. (See the commentary to § 1026.4(a).)
4(c)(7) Real-Estate Related Fees
1. Real estate or residential mortgage transaction charges. The list of charges in § 1026.4(c)(7) applies both to residential mortgage transactions (which may include, for example, the purchase of a mobile home) and to other transactions secured by real estate. The fees are excluded from the finance charge even if the services for which the fees are imposed are performed by the creditor's employees rather than by a third party. In addition, the cost of verifying or confirming information connected to the item is also excluded. For example, credit-report fees cover not only the cost of the report but also the cost of verifying information in the report. In all cases, charges excluded under § 1026.4(c)(7) must be bona fide and reasonable.
2. Lump-sum charges. If a lump sum charged for several services includes a charge that is not excludable, a portion of the total should be allocated to that service and included in the finance charge. However, a lump sum charged for conducting or attending a closing (for example, by a lawyer or a title company) is excluded from the finance charge if the charge is primarily for services related to items listed in § 1026.4(c)(7) (for example, reviewing or completing documents), even if other incidental services such as explaining various documents or disbursing funds for the parties are performed. The entire charge is excluded even if a fee for the incidental services would be a finance charge if it were imposed separately.
3. Charges assessed during the loan term. Real estate or residential mortgage transaction charges excluded under § 1026.4(c)(7) are those charges imposed solely in connection with the initial decision to grant credit. This would include, for example, a fee to search for tax liens on the property or to determine if flood insurance is required. The exclusion does not apply to fees for services to be performed periodically during the loan term, regardless of when the fee is collected. For example, a fee for one or more determinations during the loan term of the current tax-lien status or flood-insurance requirements is a finance charge, regardless of whether the fee is imposed at closing, or when the service is performed. If a creditor is uncertain about what portion of a fee to be paid at consummation or loan closing is related to the initial decision to grant credit, the entire fee may be treated as a finance charge.
4(d) Insurance and Debt Cancellation and Debt Suspension Coverage
1. General. Section 1026.4(d) permits insurance premiums and charges and debt cancellation and debt suspension charges to be excluded from the finance charge. The required disclosures must be made in writing, except as provided in § 1026.4(d)(4). The rules on location of insurance and debt cancellation and debt suspension disclosures for closed-end transactions are in § 1026.17(a). For purposes of § 1026.4(d), all references to insurance also include debt cancellation and debt suspension coverage unless the context indicates otherwise.
2. Timing of disclosures. If disclosures are given early, for example under § 1026.17(f) or § 1026.19(a), the creditor need not redisclose if the actual premium is different at the time of consummation. If insurance disclosures are not given at the time of early disclosure and insurance is in fact written in connection with the transaction, the disclosures under § 1026.4(d) must be made in order to exclude the premiums from the finance charge.
3. Premium rate increases. The creditor should disclose the premium amount based on the rates currently in effect and need not designate it as an estimate even if the premium rates may increase. An increase in insurance rates after consummation of a closed-end credit transaction or during the life of an open-end credit plan does not require redisclosure in order to exclude the additional premium from treatment as a finance charge.
4. Unit-cost disclosures.
i. Open-end credit. The premium or fee for insurance or debt cancellation or debt suspension for the initial term of coverage may be disclosed on a unit-cost basis in open-end credit transactions. The cost per unit should be based on the initial term of coverage, unless one of the options under comment 4(d)-12 is available.
ii. Closed-end credit. One of the transactions for which unit-cost disclosures (such as 50 cents per year for each $100 of the amount financed) may be used in place of the total insurance premium involves a particular kind of insurance plan. For example, a consumer with a current indebtedness of $8,000 is covered by a plan of credit life insurance coverage with a maximum of $10,000. The consumer requests an additional $4,000 loan to be covered by the same insurance plan. Since the $4,000 loan exceeds, in part, the maximum amount of indebtedness that can be covered by the plan, the creditor may properly give the insurance-cost disclosures on the $4,000 loan on a unit-cost basis.
5. Required credit life insurance; debt cancellation or suspension coverage. Credit life, accident, health, or loss-of-income insurance, and debt cancellation and suspension coverage described in § 1026.4(b)(10), must be voluntary in order for the premium or charges to be excluded from the finance charge. Whether the insurance or coverage is in fact required or optional is a factual question. If the insurance or coverage is required, the premiums must be included in the finance charge, whether the insurance or coverage is purchased from the creditor or from a third party. If the consumer is required to elect one of several options - such as to purchase credit life insurance, or to assign an existing life insurance policy, or to pledge security such as a certificate of deposit - and the consumer purchases the credit life insurance policy, the premium must be included in the finance charge. (If the consumer assigns a preexisting policy or pledges security instead, no premium is included in the finance charge. The security interest would be disclosed under § 1026.6(a)(4), § 1026.6(b)(5)(ii), or § 1026.18(m). See the commentary to § 1026.4(b)(7) and (b)(8).)
6. Other types of voluntary insurance. Insurance is not credit life, accident, health, or loss-of-income insurance if the creditor or the credit account of the consumer is not the beneficiary of the insurance coverage. If the premium for such insurance is not imposed by the creditor as an incident to or a condition of credit, it is not covered by § 1026.4.
7. Signatures. If the creditor offers a number of insurance options under § 1026.4(d), the creditor may provide a means for the consumer to sign or initial for each option, or it may provide for a single authorizing signature or initial with the options selected designated by some other means, such as a check mark. The insurance authorization may be signed or initialed by any consumer, as defined in § 1026.2(a)(11), or by an authorized user on a credit card account.
8. Property insurance. To exclude property insurance premiums or charges from the finance charge, the creditor must allow the consumer to choose the insurer and disclose that fact. This disclosure must be made whether or not the property insurance is available from or through the creditor. The requirement that an option be given does not require that the insurance be readily available from other sources. The premium or charge must be disclosed only if the consumer elects to purchase the insurance from the creditor; in such a case, the creditor must also disclose the term of the property insurance coverage if it is less than the term of the obligation.
9. Single-interest insurance. Blanket and specific single-interest coverage are treated the same for purposes of the regulation. A charge for either type of single-interest insurance may be excluded from the finance charge if:
i. The insurer waives any right of subrogation.
ii. The other requirements of § 1026.4(d)(2) are met. This includes, of course, giving the consumer the option of obtaining the insurance from a person of the consumer's choice. The creditor need not ascertain whether the consumer is able to purchase the insurance from someone else.
10. Single-interest insurance defined. The term single-interest insurance as used in the regulation refers only to the types of coverage traditionally included in the term vendor's single-interest insurance (or VSI), that is, protection of tangible property against normal property damage, concealment, confiscation, conversion, embezzlement, and skip. Some comprehensive insurance policies may include a variety of additional coverages, such as repossession insurance and holder-in-due-course insurance. These types of coverage do not constitute single-interest insurance for purposes of the regulation, and premiums for them do not qualify for exclusion from the finance charge under § 1026.4(d). If a policy that is primarily VSI also provides coverages that are not VSI or other property insurance, a portion of the premiums must be allocated to the nonexcludable coverages and included in the finance charge. However, such allocation is not required if the total premium in fact attributable to all of the non-VSI coverages included in the policy is $1.00 or less (or $5.00 or less in the case of a multiyear policy).
11. Initial term.
i. The initial term of insurance or debt cancellation or debt suspension coverage determines the period for which a premium amount must be disclosed, unless one of the options discussed under comment 4(d)-12 is available. For purposes of § 1026.4(d), the initial term is the period for which the insurer or creditor is obligated to provide coverage, even though the consumer may be allowed to cancel the coverage or coverage may end due to nonpayment before that term expires.
ii. For example: A. The initial term of a property insurance policy on an automobile that is written for one year is one year even though premiums are paid monthly and the term of the credit transaction is four years.
B. The initial term of an insurance policy is the full term of the credit transaction if the consumer pays or finances a single premium in advance.
12. Initial term; alternative.
i. General. A creditor has the option of providing cost disclosures on the basis of one year of insurance or debt cancellation or debt suspension coverage instead of a longer initial term (provided the premium or fee is clearly labeled as being for one year) if:
A. The initial term is indefinite or not clear, or
B. The consumer has agreed to pay a premium or fee that is assessed periodically but the consumer is under no obligation to continue the coverage, whether or not the consumer has made an initial payment.
ii. Open-end plans. For open-end plans, a creditor also has the option of providing unit-cost disclosure on the basis of a period that is less than one year if the consumer has agreed to pay a premium or fee that is assessed periodically, for example monthly, but the consumer is under no obligation to continue the coverage.
iii. Examples. To illustrate:
A. A credit life insurance policy providing coverage for a 30-year mortgage loan has an initial term of 30 years, even though premiums are paid monthly and the consumer is not required to continue the coverage. Disclosures may be based on the initial term, but the creditor also has the option of making disclosures on the basis of coverage for an assumed initial term of one year.
13. Loss-of-income insurance. The loss-of-income insurance mentioned in § 1026.4(d) includes involuntary unemployment insurance, which provides that some or all of the consumer's payments will be made if the consumer becomes unemployed involuntarily.
4(d)(3) Voluntary Debt Cancellation or Debt Suspension Fees
1. General. Fees charged for the specialized form of debt cancellation agreement known as guaranteed automobile protection (“GAP”) agreements must be disclosed according to § 1026.4(d)(3) rather than according to § 1026.4(d)(2) for property insurance.
2. Disclosures. Creditors can comply with § 1026.4(d)(3) by providing a disclosure that refers to debt cancellation or debt suspension coverage whether or not the coverage is considered insurance. Creditors may use the model credit insurance disclosures only if the debt cancellation or debt suspension coverage constitutes insurance under state law. (See Model Clauses and Samples at G-16 and H-17 in appendix G and appendix H to part 1026 for guidance on how to provide the disclosure required by § 1026.4(d)(3)(iii) for debt suspension products.)
3. Multiple events. If debt cancellation or debt suspension coverage for two or more events is provided at a single charge, the entire charge may be excluded from the finance charge if at least one of the events is accident or loss of life, health, or income and the conditions specified in § 1026.4(d)(3) or, as applicable, § 1026.4(d)(4), are satisfied.
4. Disclosures in programs combining debt cancellation and debt suspension features. If the consumer's debt can be cancelled under certain circumstances, the disclosure may be modified to reflect that fact. The disclosure could, for example, state (in addition to the language required by § 1026.4(d)(3)(iii)) that “In some circumstances, my debt may be cancelled.” However, the disclosure would not be permitted to list the specific events that would result in debt cancellation.
4(d)(4) Telephone Purchases
1. Affirmative request. A creditor would not satisfy the requirement to obtain a consumer's affirmative request if the “request” was a response to a script that uses leading questions or negative consent. A question asking whether the consumer wishes to enroll in the credit insurance or debt cancellation or suspension plan and seeking a yes-or-no response (such as “Do you want to enroll in this optional debt cancellation plan?”) would not be considered leading.
4(e) Certain Security Interest Charges
i. Excludable charges. Sums must be actually paid to public officials to be excluded from the finance charge under § 1026.4(e)(1) and (e)(3). Examples are charges or other fees required for filing or recording security agreements, mortgages, continuation statements, termination statements, and similar documents, as well as intangible property or other taxes even when the charges or fees are imposed by the state solely on the creditor and charged to the consumer (if the tax must be paid to record a security agreement). (See comment 4(a)-5 regarding the treatment of taxes, generally.)
ii. Charges not excludable. If the obligation is between the creditor and a third party (an assignee, for example), charges or other fees for filing or recording security agreements, mortgages, continuation statements, termination statements, and similar documents relating to that obligation are not excludable from the finance charge under this section.
2. Itemization. The various charges described in § 1026.4(e)(1) and (e)(3) may be totaled and disclosed as an aggregate sum, or they may be itemized by the specific fees and taxes imposed. If an aggregate sum is disclosed, a general term such as security interest fees or filing fees may be used.
3. Notary fees. In order for a notary fee to be excluded under § 1026.4(e)(1), all of the following conditions must be met:
i. The document to be notarized is one used to perfect, release, or continue a security interest.
ii. The document is required by law to be notarized.
iii. A notary is considered a public official under applicable law.
iv. The amount of the fee is set or authorized by law.
4. Nonfiling insurance. The exclusion in § 1026.4(e)(2) is available only if nonfiling insurance is purchased. If the creditor collects and simply retains a fee as a sort of “self-insurance” against nonfiling, it may not be excluded from the finance charge. If the nonfiling insurance premium exceeds the amount of the fees excludable from the finance charge under § 1026.4(e)(1), only the excess is a finance charge. For example:
i. The fee for perfecting a security interest is $5.00 and the fee for releasing the security interest is $3.00. The creditor charges $10.00 for nonfiling insurance. Only $8.00 of the $10.00 is excludable from the finance charge.
4(f) Prohibited Offsets
1. Earnings on deposits or investments. The rule that the creditor shall not deduct any earnings by the consumer on deposits or investments applies whether or not the creditor has a security interest in the property.