A company has offered to help me get a low-rate card for a high fee. Is this my only option for a low-rate card?
No, you don't have to pay to get a low-rate credit card. You don't need a middleman to get your foot in the door with a national bank.
Your credit history is what it is. You can correct errors in your credit report and rebuild your credit over time, but paying someone a high fee for the privilege of having them find you a credit card is wasted money. Put that money toward your credit card bills.
People who are choking on their credit card interest rates should review their credit reports, and correct any errors in the report by using the dispute process established under the Fair Credit Reporting Act. Do that first, so you know that you're putting your best foot forward when applying for a new credit card.
Then you can go shopping for a new card using Bankrate's credit card search feature. Apply for only one card, and see what happens. Multiple credit card applications make you look desperate, and firms hate to lend to desperate people.
I did a balance transfer from one credit card to another. My new credit card company sent me a check to pay off my old account but started charging me interest immediately. Is it fair to pay interest on money I've not received yet?
Balance transfers are typically treated as cash advances, and interest will accrue from the day the check was issued. There's nothing improper about the credit card company charging you interest from the time they cut the check.
If there was a several-day delay between the time you made the request and the date they cut the check, and they charged you interest from the day you made the request, then you have a reason to be upset, and you should talk to a customer service manager.
If that doesn't get results, you could file a complaint with the Federal Reserve Board or the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency if the credit card company is a national bank.
Credit card companies aren't above earning interest on the float from the delay between when the check was cut and when the check clears. It's their float to invest.
I don't understand why they weren't able to wire the funds to your bank or send the check via overnight delivery, but the cost to you for those services would likely outstrip what you paid in interest on the money.
Make sure you're not making a mountain out of a molehill. If you are transferring a balance of $10,000 at 5 percent, a week's worth of interest is about $10. Think about the money you'll be saving in interest expense during the introductory period, and how you're going to use that interest rate break as an opportunity to pay down your outstanding balances.
Worry more about making the payments on time to avoid late charges; making late payments gives the credit card company an excuse to end the introductory period and raise your interest rate.