Monday, October 18, 2010

The credit card world can be pretty creepy, so shoppers beware!

Halloween is coming up and this article is being written to shed light on the scary practices of some credit card issuers.  Before you know it, Thanksgiving will be here and then we'll rush full-blown into the holiday season.  For many of us, that means using our credit cards more.  There are some things to be aware of and beware of before you trot out that plastic on your holiday shopping spree.

Know your limits...

....and not just your credit limit.  Don't spend more than you can comfortably pay for in a reasonable period of time.  Spreading the cost of the holidays over 2 or 3 months may make sense to you, but if you're still paying for this year's gifts by next December, you may have a problem!

Know the score before you use your credit card

Sweeping credit card legislation enacted this year has many credit card issuers looking for new and inventive ways to part fools from their money.  There are all kinds of ways for issuers to make up for the income they've lost through the Credit Card Act. 

Other issuers are closing accounts that are not profitable for them and that can affect your credit score.  While it is difficult to gauge the exact affect this has on your score, closing card that you have had for a long time will negatively impact you.  In addition, closing cards may negatively affect you by lowering the difference between your credit limit and actual credit used (smaller overall credit limit while your balance remain the same).  To offset that change, you could request a higher limit on the credit card(s) you are keeping.

Higher and new fees are other ways credit card issuers are using to make money.  Among the items reported are fees for foreign transactions or higher balance transfer fees. Some have begun charging annual fees even if they offered no annual fee before.  Some are charging fees if you are inactive or pay off your balance every month. At least one large bank is charging monthly fees for participating in the rewards program.  Others are taking away rewards altogether, or removing rewards if you are late on a payment.

You should also pay attention to whether the APR is a "fixed" or "variable" rate.  A variable rate that may look very attractive now (when rates are at their lowest point in recent history), may not be so attractive as market rates start to rise.

Part II

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