CONSUMER ADVISORY

  September 2006                            By Attorney General Tom Miller

 

 

  How to Deal With Credit Card Offers

                                                                                               

Have you received a solicitation by mail or telephone offering you a new credit card?  Should you sign up -- or tear it up?  If you’re interested, how do you “shop” for credit cards?

 

            First of all, consider the “just-say-NO” approach.  Use a minimum number of credit cards to lower the danger of unwittingly falling into expensive credit card debt.  (It is not a good idea to sign up for a credit card just to get so-called “free” items.)  If you want to reduce credit card solicitations by mail or phone, ask the credit reporting agencies not to sell your name to credit card marketers and others.  Call 1-888-567-8688 (1-888-5-OPT OUT.)  You can opt out of solicitations for two years, or permanently.

 

            Second, if you are considering a card, remember to “shop” and compare.  Take your time.  Get all the information before you decide whether to apply and which card to pick.  For many more tips on how to avoid credit card hazards and how to choose the best credit card for you, go to:  .

 

            Key questions when you consider getting a credit card:            

 

             ·                     What are the interest rates?  Cards often have multiple rates, stated as the APR, or annual percentage rate of interest.  Very low advertised rates are usually only “teaser” rates, and a much higher regular rate kicks in after a few months.

 


·                     Are there steep “penalty” rates?  Penalty rates may be triggered by as little as one late payment, and they can soar as high as 24% to 30% APR for some out-of-state card issuers.  Check what triggers penalty rates and how long they apply.

 

·                     Are there other hidden fees?  Most cards have cash-advance fees with no “grace period” -- the interest clock starts ticking at once.   Late fees and over-the-limit fees can go as high as $30 on some out-of-state cards.  (Cards from Iowa issuers can’t go that high – another reason to consider cards from Iowa credit unions and banks.)  See if the card charges an annual fee.  Also, avoid expensive “add-on” items such as credit card protection plans, insurance, or buyers’ clubs.

 

            Manage your credit cards carefully to avoid expensive credit card debt.  Pay on time and pay the full balance each month if you possibly can.  Most credit card companies will not impose a finance charge (except on cash advances) if you pay in full before the due-date on your bill.  Avoid “maxing-out” on cards or paying only the minimum amount due.

 

             To file a complaint or get more information, contact the Iowa Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Div., Hoover Bldg., Des Moines, IA 50319.  Call 515-281-5926, or toll-free at 1-888-777-4590.  The web site is:  www.IowaAttorneyGeneral.org.  

 

Consumer Protection Division  Hoover Building  Des Moines, Iowa 50319  515/281-5926