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1/12/09

Credit Card 101: Facts About Credit Cards

There are many things that you should know about credit cards before applying for one. For example, not all credit cards are the same. Some credit cards are secured and some are not secured. In addition to this difference, there are usually "hidden" provisions in a credit card agreement that most people neglect to read. Such provisions include the differences between the interest rate for a purchase and a cash advance, and whether or not the credit card company from which you obtained a credit card engages in the practice of universal default.

A secured credit card is a credit card that is that is tied to a monetary fund of some kind (whether it is a deposit, bank account, or some other account). The monetary fund can be accessed and used by the credit card company in the event that the credit card holder defaults on a payment. These kinds of credit cards usually have an obscenely high interest rate and an inordinate amount of fees. Basically, they are terrible credit cards that target people with bad credit.

As an alternative to getting a secured credit card, you should look at non-major credit cards. These types of credit cards include credit cards from various retail stores, department stores, and even gasoline cards. These cards usually have a high interest rate, however, the usually have no fees attached to them as secured credit cards do. Additionally, these "non-major" credit cards are unsecured, therefore, you do not have to put up a big deposit or tie the credit card to a bank account. It is easy to qualify for non-major credit cards, and thus, they provide an attractive alternative to secured credit cards should your credit be bad.

In regard to the different interest rates for purchase and cash advances, if you look at your credit card statement, you will see a section that shows you your interest rate. There are usually two interest rates shown: (1) your purchases interest rate; and (2) your cash advance interest rate. I can almost guarantee that the cash advance interest rate will be several points higher than your purchases interest rate. For example, you regular purchases interest rate may be 12.95% while you cash advance interest rate may be 19.95%. Why the big difference? This difference exists because your monthly payments will not count towards your cash advance balance until you fully pay off your regular purchases balance. Therefore, the credit card company will be able to charge you a higher interest rate while you are paying off your primary debt.

Universal default is a credit practice where you will be in default on one card because you are in default on another unrelated credit account. For example, let us pretend you have two completely unrelated credit cards; Credit Card A and Credit Card B. Further, let us pretend that Credit Card B has a universal default provision in the credit card agreement. Now, pretend that you are late or default on a payment to Credit Card A. The credit card company that gave you Credit Card B can now put Credit Card B into default even if you have never missed nor been late on a payment to Credit Card B.

The effect of this is that it is possible for you to be charged a credit default fee for Credit Card B (even though you have never missed nor been late on a payment to Credit Card B) and that another negative impact will occur on your credit report.

These are just a couple of credit card facts of which you need to be aware before you obtain a credit card.

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