Do you have credit cards? Do you know exactly which fees you pay, and how much of your monthly payment is devoted to such fees? If not, you’re in good company; too many of us don’t know exactly what we’re paying for when we make our monthly payments. And card companies have been accused of making credit card terms and conditions too complicated for the average card holder to understand. What’s a consumer to do?
First, know what’s out there. Fees come in the form of annual fees, late fees, penalties, fees for cash advances, fees for international purchases, and even fees for paying your bills over the phone. Fees are a slight nuisance to us, but they are big business for card issuers, who took in $25 billion in late and other fees in 2006. Yikes!
There are some steps you can take to reduce the amount of money you pay out in fees. First, sign up for a card that does not charge an annual fee. Never use a credit card to take out a cash advance at an ATM. Those cash advances incur an average 3% fee upon withdrawal, and begin to accrue interest right away. Some interest rates on cash advances can reach 25%! That’s throwing money away.
Likewise, don’t use convenience checks. They incur fees when used, and more fees if they get return or if you place a stop on them. Convenience checks and cash advances might have been no-brainers, but did you know that using your credit card to purchase money orders or lottery tickets can also bring fees? It’s best to use cash or debit for those purchases.
International travelers will find foreign-transaction fees on their credit card statements, and to make matters worse, these fees aren’t always accurate. Travelers abroad who purchased items with their credit cards early in 2006 are now entitled to refunds. (Visit http://www.ccfsettlement.com or contact your card company to see if you qualify for this refund.)
If you don’t want to throw your money away on hidden fees, think about applying for one of the best low-fee credit cards. According to Kiplinger.Com, the best of the best are ranked thus: Simmons First National Bank (P), with a recent interest rate of 7.25% and a cash advance rate and fee of 11.25%/3%. This card has no annual fee, and a 25 day grace period. Late and over-limit payments are subject to $29 fees.
Next is the Capital One Platinum Prestige (P), with a recent interest rate of 7.9 and a cash advance rate and fee of 19.8%/3%. This credit card doesn’t charge an annual fee, and carries a grace period of 25 days. Late payments and over-limit charges are subject to respective fees of $35 and $29.
Finally, we have the Pulaski Bank & Trust (G). It has a recent interest rate of 7.99. Cash advances come at a 7.99% rate and no additional fee. There is a $50 annual fee and a 25 day grace period. Late payments and over-charges will both garner a $29 fee.
How bad are credit card fees? They’re not pretty, but you do have some control over the card you choose to carry. Remember, if you’re uncertain about certain fees, call your card company and ask someone to explain them to you. That’s what customer service is all about.