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10/15/07

What You Should Know About Credit Card Costs

Yes, credit cards can have costs. There are two main costs associated with credit cards: (1) interest rates; and (2) annual fees. However, even though these are the two monetary costs, there exist many intangible costs (such as customer service).

First, the monetary costs. Why oh why would you pay just to own a credit card? Annual fees are just nuts! Unless you have bad or no credit, have absolutely no other choice, and desperately need credit, then it may be... NO, scratch that sentence – there is absolutely no reason to pay an annual fee on a credit card. There are far too many credit choices from which to choose. Do not get a card with an annual fee, it is that simple.

In addition to annual fees, credit card companies charge other fees of which you may not be aware. If you are ever late on a payment, there is usually a fee. If you go over your credit limit, there is usually a fee. Know what these fees are and factor them into your decision as to whether to obtain that particular card.

How about interest rates? These can be pretty sneaky. First, you should notice that the interest rate is different for credit purchases and cash advances. Cash advances always carry a higher interest rate. Additionally, your monthly payment will not count towards your cash advance balance until your credit purchases balance is paid off. Why? Cash advances carry a higher interest rate, therefore, the longer that that balance remains unpaid, the more money the credit card company makes.

Also, make sure that the interest rate that is advertised is not an “introductory” rate or a “variable” rate. Introductory rates only last a couple of months (at most, one year). After that introductory period, your interest rate resets to the default rate. The default rate is usually a lot higher than the introductory rate. Therefore, be aware of what you are getting yourself into.

Variable rates change with economic conditions, therefore, you could have a great rate one month and a terrible rate another month. Do not play a guessing game with you credit card interest rate. Get a low fixed rate and you will be much happier.

Intangible costs can ruin a credit card. Have you ever called your credit card company only to listen to an infinite amount of menu options? When you finally get a real person on the phone that person tells you that you have called the wrong department. In an attempt to transfer you, the main menu comes back up and you are back to square one. At the least, this whole process is a waste of time. Why put up with this? As I said before, too many credit card options exist for you to have to settle for one with mediocre service. Your time is valuable; do not waste it on bad customer service!

Know the costs that are associated with a credit card. By doing this, you will be able to make the best decision possible based on your needs and wants.

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