NEW YORK – U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer called Wednesday for the Federal Reserve to step in to help individuals avoid obtaining corporate credit cards that come with fewer protections than cards meant for consumers.

Schumer, in a letter, asked Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke to crack down on banks that sign consumers up for cards designed for small businesses and professionals, which are not subject to the sweeping credit card law that took effect in recent months.

The New York Democrat cited reports that show a 256 percent increase in the number of corporate credit card offers mailed by banks since last year, before the law kicked in. He noted there is anecdotal evidence that consumers are unwittingly opening such accounts because certain banks have eliminated spaces for information about businesses on the applications.

“There’s a legitimate need for a separate type of card for small businesses,” Schumer said in an interview. “But there is no excuse for selling those cards to consumers who don’t need them and don’t even know they’re buying them.”

Banks have more leeway on how they handle professional or small business cards than they do with consumer cards under the new law.

Interest rates, for instance, can be raised on existing balances if payments are late for business cards. With consumer cards, after introductory rates expire, only the interest rates on future charges can get hiked in most circumstances — and then only after 45 days’ notice.