10 Things You Should Know About Credit Cards
1. Interest Backdating
Most card issuers charge interest from the day a charge is posted to your account if you don’t pay in full monthly. But, some charge interest from the date of purchase, days before they have even paid the store on your behalf!
Remedy: Find another card issuer, or always pay your bill in full by the due date.
Issuers using this method of calculating interest charge two months’ worth of interest for the first month you failed to pay off your total balance in full. This issue arises only when you switch from paying in full to carrying a balance from month to month.
Remedy: Switch issuers or always pay your balance in full.
3. The Right to Setoff
If you have money on deposit at a bank and also have your credit card there, you may have signed an agreement when you opened the deposit account that permits the bank to take those funds if you become delinquent on your credit card.
Remedy: Bank at separate institutions, or avoid delinquencies.
4. Fees Are Negotiable
You may be paying up to $50 a year or more as an annual fee on your credit card. You may also be subject to finance charges of more than 18 percent.
Remedy: If you are a good customer, ask the bank to drop the annual fee and reduce the interest rate. Otherwise, you can switch issuers to a lower-priced card.
5. Interest Rate Hikes Are Retroactive
If you sign up for a credit card with a low “teaser” rate, such as 7.9 percent, when the low rate period expires, your existing balance will likely be subject to the regular and substantially higher interest rate.
Remedy: Pay in full before the rate increase or close the account.
6. Shortened Due Dates
Most card issuers offer a 25-day grace period in which to pay for new purchases without incurring finance charges. Some banks have shortened the grace period to 20 days — but only for customers who pay in full monthly.
Remedy: Ask to go back to 25 days.
7. Eliminating Grace Periods
That fabulous offer you received in the mail for a gold card with a $10,000 credit limit and lots of features may not be so great. The most common “string” attached is the card has no grace period. You are charged interest on everything from the day you buy it, even if you pay on time.
Remedy: Throw the offer out!
8. Disappearing Benefits
Many banks entice you to sign up with extra benefits such as lifetime warranty, a 5 percent discount on all travel or protection if an item purchased is lost. Now, some banks have cut back on these extras without the fanfare that launched them.
Remedy: Read annual disclosure of changes, and switch cards if need be.
9. Double Fees on Cash Advances
Most credit cards impose both finance charges and a transaction fee on cash advances. Interest starts from the day of the advance, and the transaction fee can be up to 2.5 percent of the amount taken. Beware of cards advertising “no finance charges.” Transaction fees may still apply.
Remedy: Limit cash advances.
10. Misleading Monthly Minimums
You may think it is beneficial to have a card where you only need to pay 2 percent to 3 percent of your balance monthly. It is just the opposite. The bank stands to make far more money from finance charges the longer you carry out payments — and you foot the bill.
Remedy: Pay all you can monthly.