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  • No matter how much you may think you know about credit cards, it can always be a benefit to go back to the basics. In the case of your plastic, it is always good to revisit the essential tenets of your card agreement.

    The whole point of most credit cards is to allow you to make purchases by borrowing funds up to your credit limit from the issuer, and paying them back at the pace you choose.

    After a grace period of 20-25 days, you are charged interest on your unpaid balance, at a rate that should be disclosed to you before you sign up for any credit offer. More and more nowadays, competing credit card companies like to sweeten the deal by offering cash-back rewards, airline miles, gift cards, extended warranties on merchandise, and other perks small and large.

    Just from this, you can see that several variables figure into any one credit card issued to any one person the line of credit offered, the rate of interest, the included benefits, etc. Some cards are geared towards those with near-flawless credit histories, while others target students and those looking to build or repair their credit histories. It is very possible that there is a card just right for you; it just takes some research and education to sort out which offer is best. Our site helps you in that area by comparing card offers based on the key variables interest rates, annual rates, and benefits.

    Heres a brief glossary of terms to help you along:

    Annual Fee: Many merchants charge you a yearly fee for the use of their card. This can range from a very small amount (say ten to fifteen dollars) to fifty or more. It can be possible to eliminate an annual fee by using your card often, by maintaining a certain balance, or by simply asking for it to be taken off! There are cards that offer no annual fee, but that doesnt mean that these offer the best deal. The value of a card offer takes into consideration the annual fee plus the interest rate plus any other applicable fees.

    Annual Percentage Rate (APR): This is the rate of interest you will be charged for carrying a balance on your card from month to month. This rate can be either fixed or variable/floating. The obvious benefit to a fixed APR is that you will know what youll pay each month; however, the rates tend to be a bit higher with this option.

    Introductory APR: This is a reduced rate of interest for the introductory period you own your card usually 60 or 90 days. After the intro period is over, the rate switches to a higher fixed or floating rate. It is important to know in advance what the eventual rate will be, and that the intro rate is usually suspended if you miss a payment.

    Grace Period: This is the timeframe between when you make a purchase and when you are charged interest for it. The period is usually 25 days. If you carry a balance from month to month, however, interest may begin accruing right from the time of purchase,

    Other Fees: Other fees you may end up paying on your card include late payment penalties, over-limit fees (for spending more than your credit limit), cash advance fees, and account se-up charges (which are rare). Along with any and all interest information, these should be fully disclosed in writing before applying for a card.

    Benefits: Many merchants offer perks and incentives to cardmembers, including rebates for shopping and merchandise, airline miles for dollars spent, and discounts on goods and services. Special-interest cards from specific retailers may offer rewards towards future purchases.

    Balance Computation: You accumulate interest on your unpaid balance carried from month to month. To figure this out, many card issuers use the average daily balance method of computing, meaning that interest is charged from the day of purchase if the full balance is not paid within a cycle. Alternately, some issuers charge two months of interest if you switch from paying in full each month to carrying charges. It sounds complicated, but the exact formula used to arrive at your balance will be included with your bill.

    If you feel that you have a complaint against a credit card issuer, or your have a question as a credit consumer, you can contact the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at 1-877-FTCHELP. The FTC works for the consumer in preventing and prosecuting unfair trade practices.

     

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