Most of us will assert that the simple act of possessing a credit card can make a person feel a lot more independent than other things.
The truth is you need to be extremely cautious when applying for a credit card, as it is a complex web of fees, charges, and interest rates (not to mention hidden clauses and terms which are not only illegal but also financially dangerous) which can sink you deep in debt.
Apply for a credit card only if you are sure that you will be able to make intelligent use of it in the near future. But first, you will need a layman’s crash course on credit card interest rates before you secure and swipe your card at the first opportunity.
I have found that interest rates are not the same for different applicants. But usually the means for assigning interest rates on an applicant is based on his credit history. Assuming that you have no history of bad credit, you could end up getting a loan at a relatively low interest rate. Alternatively, you would have no choice but to work hard in order to improve your credit.
This may be done the hard way, by taking the brunt of the compromised interest rate which the bank will assign to you, or to choose a plan with a lower credit limit so that the interest rate follows accordingly. There is also the option of the prepaid credit card. But this method of rebuilding credit is hard to secure and it charges even higher interest costs.
Sure enough, there are low interest credit cards or even zero percent interest plans which are available, but as expected, there is a catch: this low interest may not be valid for over a certain period of somewhere between six months and one year. After the expiration of this low interest period, higher rates of interest come into play. For a monthly or annual fee, service alerts are offered, informing the borrower as to when his low interest period is due to expire.
But most times, these are nothing more than gimmicks. They are targeted to work in the short term only.
Some credit cards can also be used in an ATM to take out funds within the credit limit, but the interest is usually charged from the date of withdrawal, and not from the monthly billing date. This means that the issuer gets a higher payback in interest rate from the transaction than usual.
Bear in mind the fact that many credit card providers offer varying rates of interest. So make sure you know what you are getting into. Some may lure you with teaser offers of low rates for a certain period, whereas the regular rates can get as high as 40 percent.
Since there are no fixed regulations concerning interest rates and penalties on late payments, some issuers forfeit the teaser rates if the borrower does not make the payment on time, and replaces it with a penalty interest rate. Some can even be so unscrupulous as to charge interest even if the balance is fully paid on the due date.
Ideally, you should be shopping around for credit cards that are really cheap. But it is not enough to charge low rates. The card should offer terms that would be convenient for the borrower.