credit cards

How to avoid credit card pitfalls

For example, the section on variable rates contains different rates for purchases, balance transfers and cash advances. If you see "Default APR," it means the credit card issuer practices universal default.

The "grace period" is the time between the purchase of an item and when interest on that purchase begins to accrue. The grace period on many terms and conditions is listed as 20 or 21 days, but it rarely explains that there is NO grace period if you carry a balance. Plain and simply, if you carry a balance, you begin paying interest on everything you buy at the purchase APR from the moment you buy that item until the balance is paid in full.

And then there are the fees: for late payment, for being over your credit limit, for cash advances, for balance transfers, for international transactions. The one fee that has disappeared on most cards is the annual fee. There is no need to pay a fee for the privilege of using a credit card.

Comparison shop

Draut encourages people to comparison shop for cards, just as they would for anything they purchase. "Don't be over-wowed by teaser rates," she says. "Look at the real rate six months from now. All of the cards contain the same tricks and traps. There is a lot of competition for new cardholders, but as soon as you start carrying debt on that card, all of the offers are the same."

To find the best credit card rates, use's rate comparison tool. It allows you to search for cards by low interest rate, no annual fee, secured, airline miles, rewards and student cards. Be aware that student credit cards carry higher interest rates, so if you qualify for a standard card, take it.

Another key to managing debt is to pay off the high interest loans, like credit cards, before lower-interest loans, like student loans. But be sure you keep up-to-date with all payments. Even if you can't pay the balance in full, pay every month and pay on time.

While it may be a cliche, it is true: You must read the fine print before you sign up for a credit card and every month when you receive your statement. Credit card issuers often include changes to the terms and conditions in the monthly billing statements, so be sure that you read all of the "junk" that comes with the bill. It may save you money.

Aim to be a deadbeat

Ultimately, when it comes to credit cards, everyone should strive to be a "deadbeat." Huh? Within the credit card industry, people who pay off their balance in full every month are known as "deadbeats" or "freeloaders," because the credit card companies don't make any interest or fees off these cardholders. They just use the credit card companies' money, take the reward points, and pay off the bill. Who'd have thought when you graduated from college that your goal would be to become a credit card deadbeat?



Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

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