credit cards

Are credit card fees increasing?

Late fees

Overall, late fees ranged from $5 to $39. In our 2009 study, late fees topped out at $38.50.

Twenty credit union cards charge a flat fee regardless of balance or degree of tardiness, ranging from $5 to $30. Some issuers allow extra time for payments to arrive before charging a fee. The $10 late fee on a San Diego County Credit Union Classic card, for instance, won't apply unless the payment is 10 days or more past due. Pentagon Federal Credit Union Standard card is the only credit union card in our survey to have a tiered fee structure based on account balance.

Twenty-five bank cards had a tiered fee structure tied to the balance. Eleven had a flat fee ranging from $25 to $39. Only Clear from American Express doesn't assess a late fee, and someone with a First Citizens B&T Classic card wouldn't face the $29 late fee until the payment is 10 days late.

Takeaway: Late fees can cost as much as $39 for each offense, so make sure to pay on time. Utilize e-mail reminders and pay online to minimize processing time. But be warned, making a payment through customer service may cost you. For example, the Chase Platinum card charges $14.95 to make a payment over the phone on the due date. The CARD Act banned issuers from charging fees on this method of payment, except to expedite a payment through a representative.

Cash advance and balance transfer fees

Twenty-five out of 33 credit union cards don't charge a balance transfer fee. Fifteen bank cards don't charge a fee to transfer a balance, and nine other cards charge zero percent interest on balance transfers for at least six months. Six bank cards had a 4 percent fee with a minimum. Discover More charges the highest balance transfer fee, at 4 percent of the amount if the transfer occurs within 15 days of the application and 5 percent after that with no maximum.

Twenty credit union cards don't even charge a cash advance fee, and the highest fee is 3 percent of the transaction amount. On the bank card side, cash advance fees go as high as 5 percent of the cash advance amount on the Discover More Card or the First National Bank of Omaha Platinum card.

Takeaway: Balance transfers often involve fees and low interest rates that expire. Use our balance transfer calculator to estimate the cost of moving debt. Avoid taking cash advances unless emergency strikes, since cash advances usually have no grace period. That means interest will start accruing on the debt immediately.

Service fees

Both credit unions and banks tend to charge for miscellaneous services, such as providing a copy of a statement or expediting a payment over the phone. Look for fees you expect to face based on your typical experience with credit cards. For example, if you lose your card a lot, watch out for card replacement fees, which run as high as $21 on the cards we surveyed (most cards didn't charge for this service). The one fee-laden card in our survey, the First PREMIER Bank Centennial Card, even charges for increasing your credit limit. Fifty percent of the limit increase is assessed as a fee.

The survey was conducted by Bankrate market analyst Brooks Kelly between April 1 and April 8.

Read the detailed results of the study to see what fees your card charges.

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Product Rate Change Last week
Balance Transfer Cards 15.76% --0.00 15.76%
Cash Back Cards 16.44% --0.00 16.44%
Low Interest Cards 11.04% --0.00 11.04%
 
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