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1026.21—Treatment of credit balances.

When a credit balance in excess of $1 is created in connection with a transaction (through transmittal of funds to a creditor in excess of the total balance due on an account, through rebates of unearned finance charges or insurance premiums, or through amounts otherwise owed to or held for the benefit of a consumer), the creditor shall:

(a) Credit the amount of the credit balance to the consumer's account;

(b) Refund any part of the remaining credit balance, upon the written request of the consumer; and

(c) Make a good faith effort to refund to the consumer by cash, check, or money order, or credit to a deposit account of the consumer, any part of the credit balance remaining in the account for more than 6 months, except that no further action is required if the consumer's current location is not known to the creditor and cannot be traced through the consumer's last known address or telephone number.

Official Interpretation

Paragraph 21(a)

1. Credit balance. A credit balance arises whenever the creditor receives or holds funds in an account in excess of the total balance due from the consumer on that account. A balance might result, for example, from the debtor's paying off a loan by transmitting funds in excess of the total balance owed on the account, or from the early payoff of a loan entitling the consumer to a rebate of insurance premiums and finance charges. However, §1026.21 does not determine whether the creditor in fact owes or holds sums for the consumer. For example, if a creditor has no obligation to rebate any portion of precomputed finance charges on prepayment, the consumer's early payoff would not create a credit balance with respect to those charges. Similarly, nothing in this provision interferes with any rights the creditor may have under the contract or under state law with respect to set-off, cross collateralization, or similar provisions.

2. Total balance due. The phrase total balance due refers to the total outstanding balance. Thus, this provision does not apply where the consumer has simply paid an amount in excess of the payment due for a given period.

3. Timing of refund. The creditor may also fulfill its obligation under this section by:

i. Refunding any credit balance to the consumer immediately.

ii. Refunding any credit balance prior to a written request from the consumer.

iii. Making a good faith effort to refund any credit balance before 6 months have passed. If that attempt is unsuccessful, the creditor need not try again to refund the credit balance at the end of the 6-month period.

Paragraph 21(b)

1. Written requests—standing orders. The creditor is not required to honor standing orders requesting refunds of any credit balance that may be created on the consumer's account.

Paragraph 21(c)

1. Good faith effort to refund. The creditor must take positive steps to return any credit balance that has remained in the account for over 6 months. This includes, if necessary, attempts to trace the consumer through the consumer's last known address or telephone number, or both.

2. Good faith effort unsuccessful. Section 1026.21 imposes no further duties on the creditor if a good faith effort to return the balance is unsuccessful. The ultimate disposition of the credit balance (or any credit balance of $1 or less) is to be determined under other applicable law.


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