2009 Credit Card Study
credit cards
2009 Credit Card Study: The fine print

Only Capital One and Discover have a range of overlimit fees, based on the balance. The other issuers all charge flat fees.

Balance transfers: Most charge 3 percent of the balance transfer amount with no cap on the fee amount you'll pay. In our survey, conducted in May, Bank of America was top with 4 percent. Capital One was lowest at zero percent. USAA has a cap of $75 per transfer; Wells Fargo and American Express cap at $99 per transfer.

In June, Chase announced that its balance transfer fee will rise to 5 percent as of Aug. 1, making it the highest in the industry.

Cash advance: Similarly, when Bankrate's study was done, Bank of America had the highest percentage at 5 percent of the amount advanced. US Bank and Wells Fargo charged 4 percent. All others charged 3 percent.

However, Chase will also begin charging 5 percent for cash advances in August, according to a June announcement.

Payment-related fees: It's expensive to talk to humans -- even when you're calling to give them money. Most issuers charge a fee for making a payment over the phone talking to a human being. Bank of America ($15), Capital One ($14.95), Chase ($14.95), Citi ($14.95), FNB Omaha ($15, unless you have another account with the bank), US Bank ($10 without an account) and Wells Fargo ($12 without an account) all charge to make a payment by phone with a person.

A few of the banks have an automated payment system, and four charge a fee between $8 and $10 to use it.

No one charges for making a payment at a branch, with or without an account. For example, if you have a Bank of America credit card but your checking account is at another institution, you can still pay your bill in the branch without paying an additional fee.

Other fees: None of the credit cards we surveyed has an annual fee. There are a lot of other fees, though, for all kinds of actions.

Returned check fees range from $27 (USAA Federal Savings) to $39 (six of the 10 issuers surveyed). (The average fee charged by a bank for a bounced check is $28.95, according to Bankrate's 2008 Checking Study.)

Many issuers (seven of 10) charge for a copy of the statement, from $3 to $10. Chase is the only issuer that has a two-tier system: If you have good credit, a statement copy is free; if you have bad credit, it will cost you $10.

Grace period: The grace periods range from 20 to 25 days. Here's the breakdown:

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25-day grace period: Capital One, Discover, USAA, Wells Fargo.
20-25 day grace period: US Bank.
20-day grace period: American Express, Bank of America, Chase, Citi, FNB Omaha.

Of course, there is no grace period if there's a balance on the card. Once a charge is made, interest begins to accrue.

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Product Rate Change Last week
Balance Transfer Cards 15.77%  0.06 15.71%
Cash Back Cards 16.48%  0.07 16.41%
Low Interest Cards 10.96%  0.10 10.86%
 
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