Starting April 1, advertisements peddling “free credit reports” will require new disclosures to help consumers avoid confusing offers – which often require customers to spend money on credit monitoring or other products or services, the Federal Trade Commission said today. Consumers may not realize that they are entitled to a “no-strings-attached” free credit report at AnnualCreditReport.com, the FTC said.

With stricter credit card laws taking effect this week, there’s even more bad news for card issuers. The average credit card debt continued its slide in the fourth quarter 2009, down to $5,434, a 3.18 dip from the previous quarter and down 5 percent from a year ago, reported TransUnion. The credit bureau also reported that the national credit card delinquency rate, the ratio of card borrowers 90 days late, increased to 1.21 percent in the fourth quarter, up 10 percent from the previous quarter, but remained flat year over year.

The Federal Trade Commission has lowered the maximum a consumer can be charged for an extra credit report, from $11 to $10.50, effective Jan. 1. The $10.50 charge applies when a consumer, who has already received a free annual credit report, does not otherwise qualify for an additional free report.

Lenders who offer less favorable terms to some based on their credit report will have to provide the borrowers with so-called “risk-based pricing” notices, according to new rules reported today by the Federal Reserve and the Federal Trade Commission. The rules mean that now consumers with some negative information on their credit reports will be better informed and be able to track vital credit scoring factors. And they will be able to do so more cheaply. Risk-based pricing notices enable consumers to obtain a free credit report.

When you are choosing a credit card, there are many features — and several kinds of cards — to consider: Fees, charges, interest rates, and benefits can vary among credit card issuers. As a result, some credit cards that look like a great deal at first glance may lose their appeal once you read the terms and conditions of use and calculate how the fees could affect your available credit.