A spin-free guide to
reading the fine print
in credit card offers
2 Telephone payment fees Some cards charge
a fee if you use your pay-by-
phone banking service.
3 Late payment fee Could be
as high as $39. If the mail gets
there fi ve minutes late, ouch!
Some cards have a sliding
scale, and for any balance over
$1,000, you’re nicked for the
4 Annual fees as high as
$135, often for a rewards program But many cards
are shouting “No annual fee” to distract you from their
5 Transaction fees up to 5% for cash advances
Want a quick $100 from an ATM? Watch out for a $10
minimum charge. Maximum? Read the agreement.
And remember, cash advances usually come at a
higher interest rate.
6 Over-the-credit limit fee up to $39 Again, there’s
often a sliding scale. One trap: You transfer an old
balance of $10,000 to the new card, thinking you’ll get
the $25,000 credit limit you applied for. You get your
new card in the mail, don’t realize the new approved
limit is still $10,000, and use your new card the
next time you stop for gas. That one tank full sends
you over the credit limit and bingo! Your new card
pockets a quick $39.
7 Travel penalty If you charge purchases outside
the United States, Visa and MasterCard usually add a
1 percent currency exchange fee. Some banks tack on
an additional 2 percent. So after that dream vacation, a
wake-up welcome home. Know before you go.
Why reading the fi ne print matters.
Penalty fees alone average $113 per year for every
American household. But jumps in the interest rate
can cost you thousands of dollars over the years.
What else to watch for?
Jumping through hoops for rewards, miles, and points.
If a card promises paybacks, are they worth the price
There are no hard-and-fast answers. It depends on
your life choices.
And whether you have the diligence to tease the true
meaning from red fl ags like “some restrictions and
limitations may apply.” Compare offers ca