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Getting credit: The Fine Print

(continued from Getting Credit: How Your Credit History Affects You)... 

When applying for credit cards, it’s important to shop around. Fees, charges, interest rates and benefits can vary drastically among credit card issuers. And, in some cases, credit cards might seem like great deals until you read the fine print and disclosures. When you’re trying to find the credit card that’s right for you, look at the:

Annual percentage rate (APR)—The APR is a measure of the cost of credit, expressed as a yearly interest rate. Usually, the lower the APR, the better for you. Be sure to check the fine print to see if your offer has a time limit. Your APR could be much higher after the initial limited offer.

Grace period—This is the time between the date of the credit card purchase and the date the company starts charging you interest.

Annual fees—Many credit card issuers charge an annual fee for giving you credit, typically $15 to $55.

Transaction fees and other charges—Most creditors charge a fee if you don’t make a payment on time. Other common credit card fees include those for cash advances and going beyond the credit limit. Some credit cards charge a flat fee every month, whether you use your card or not.

Customer service—Customer service is something most people don’t consider, or appreciate, until there’s a problem. Look for a 24-hour toll-free telephone number.

Other options—Creditors may offer other options for a price, including discounts, rebates and special merchandise offers. If your card is lost or stolen, federal law protects you from owing more than $50 per card—but only if you report that it was lost or stolen within two days of discovering the loss or theft. Paying for additional protection may not be a good value.

YOUR PERSONAL FINANCIAL INFORMATION

Banks and other financial companies may share your personal financial information with their subsidiaries and other companies. But you can limit some of that sharing if you want to. “Opting out” can help keep much of your financial information private and reduce unsolicited offers that come in the mail. But it also means you may not see offers that could interest you. Your financial institutions will send you a privacy notice once a year in your statement or as a separate mailing. Be sure to read these notices carefully. Get answers to your questions from these companies. If you decide you want to opt out, follow the company’s instructions—you may need to call them, return a form, or go online. You can shop around for a financial institution with the privacy policy you want.

(continue on to Getting Credit: Keep Credit Cards Under Control)...

American Consumer Credit Counseling (ACCC) is one of the top nonprofit debt consolidation companies in the U.S., with more than 22 years' experience helping individuals and families consolidate credit card debt and improve their credit management skills. If you're wondering "How does debt consolidation work?" and "How can I consolidate my bills?", we can provide you with debt consolidation information to show you exactly how we can help you consolidate debt without having to borrow money or pay steep fees. If you're considering bankruptcy, we are also one of the approved credit counseling agencies for issuing a pre-bankruptcy certificate as well as providing the post-bankruptcy credit counseling course.

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