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Tips for Students: What Many People Do Not Know About Credit Cards

The following items are not widely known. In fact, you may want to share these tips with your parents!

  1. If your credit card uses different rates for purchases, transfers, and cash advances, realize that the card issuer may pay the lower interest rate balance first. Consequently, if you carry a balance, your high-rate cash advance may not be "paid" until all lower-rate balances are paid in full.
  2. Fixed-Rate credit cards are not fixed forever. Rates can be changed at any time, as long as the card issuer provides 15 days advance notice of the change in terms. Fees may also increase. These "Change in Terms" notices are usually included with your monthly statement.
  3. Your interest rate may dramatically increase if you make late payments. For example, some issuers will raise your interest rate to the maximum after one or two late payments. Consequently, your 12% credit card could quickly turn into a 25% credit card.
  4. Your credit card issuer may also raise your interest rate after conducting a routine credit report review. If your overall credit history has deteriorated, the issuer may raise your interest rate, even though you've never made a late payment on the card in question.
  5. The 25 day grace period only applies when you pay-off your entire balance due each month. If you only pay the minimum payment, interest is immediately accrued from the moment you charge something to your credit card. Some companies are also shortening the grace period to 20 days, and some cards have no grace periods.
  6. Ignore offers to reduce or skip payments. These options are frequently offered over the holidays. When you skip a payment, the loan continues to accrue interest; therefore, these offers simply increase the overall interest and finance charges that the creditor collects. On a similar note, beware of offers of no payment/no interest for a period of time. Furniture stores, jewelry stores, and electronics stores frequently offer these programs. For example, no payment/no interest for 12 months!! This can be a good offer, but once again, read the fine print. Make sure you know the details of the program. Generally, you need to pay off the entire balance before the end of the "free" period to receive the benefit. Otherwise, you will probably have to pay interest on the entire balance from the date of your purchase.

Source: Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation at www.FDIC.gov

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