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IT'S NO surprise that so many people still carry credit cards with annual percentage rates (APRs) of 13% or higher. After all, there is a whole industry of card issuers out there to using hidden fees and interest rate to exploit you as best they can.

The key to getting a better credit-card deal is figuring out how much a given card really costs you.

Credit Card Rates :-

You want to make sure that the interest rate importune on the card offer doesn't only apply to the balance you're going to roll over. Some card issuers actually charge you 2 interest rates :-
  1. For new purchases and
  2. For your transfer balance.
Whatever you do, be aware when it comes to those tempting introductory offers. You may think you're going to pay off that balance in full by the time that low rate bumps up to a frightening 13% APR or higher. But those institutions are banking on the fact that you won't and they're probably right.

Rates can also increase sharply if you make late payment. Rates can jump from 12% to 20% when an account is as little as one day late. That's often a permanent rate change, so if you fall into that trap, you should first give your card issuer a call to see if you can return to the lower rate before you going to have to change cards altogether.

Grace Period :-

Some cards company have tricky grace periods that only cover you for 20 days from the transaction. With these cards, if you wait to pay your bill until it's actually due, you'll still owe interest.

If you do pay off your balance in full each month, make sure you get a card with a grace period (the amount of time you have to pay your bill before you start accruing interest) of 25 days or longer. Believe it or not, some cards start charging you interest at the time of purchase, so even if you pay off your balance each month, you're still going to owe your card issuer some extra cash.

Don't be fooled by the grace period, however. If you carry a balance, you pay interest on that 365 days out of the year (or at least until you pay it off).

Fees :-

In their race and quest for profits, card company have mischievous with their fees from transfer fees to over the limit fees. That's why you need to actually read the fee disclosure. Here are some things to look out for:
  • Annual fees :-
    There are enough good cards out there that don't charge this fee that it can be easily avoided. (If you've got a good credit rating and pay off your balance in full, don't pay one).
  • Closure fees :-
    Some cards will actually charge you a fee for closing an account, the only way to avoid it is to know up front whether the card issuer charges this fee.
  • Late fees :-
    This is very important to know as late fees can be charged if your payment is just one day late and can also lead to an increase in your interest rate.
  • Overseas transaction fees :-
    It's become increasingly common for credit card companies to tack an additional 1% or 2% on top of the credit-card company's fee.

Fixed v/s Variable :-

You may be offered a choice between a fixed and variable rates, with the fixed rate being slightly higher. All "fixed" means is that when your interest rate changes, your card issuer needs to warn you 15 days in advance.

A variable rate can change without notice. Most variable rates are tied to a national interest rate so you shouldn't be caught completely off guard. The bottom line is that you should make sure you understand how the rate is calculated and keep an eye on your bills.

Why do Credit Card Companies Target Students?

Surprisingly, students are a good credit risk, despite the fact that they often do not have jobs and are also borrowing student loans. Research has shown that student borrowers are valuable customers because they tend to stay loyal to their first card, continuing to make purchases for many years to come.

As a student, you will have to decide for yourself if you can handle the responsibility of a credit card. They are easy to get but not so easy to manage, especially if you end up with a high, unpaid balance on which interest is accruing, but payments are not being made. According to the PIRG study, of the 79% of surveyed students who use credit cards for multiple purposes, only 13% reported limiting credit card use to emergencies.

As a student when making your decision about a credit card, ask yourself the following:
  • Do I need a credit card?
  • Can I afford a credit card?
  • Will I be able to pay off my balance each month?
If you decide to apply for a credit card, be a smart consumer and shop around. Look for a company that offers the following:
  • Low interest rates or finance charges (combined, they are called APR)
  • Low or no annual fees (it is extra burden to your pocket)
  • A grace period (time during which no payments are due) before finance charges are posted
  • Other benefits including purchase warranties, free gas, airline miles, cash back etc.
Helpful Hints on Using Credit Cards

Fees :-
  • Watch out for carrying balances. Some cards charge 20% or more in interest. as "Finance Charges" on your statements.
  • Look at your statement carefully and call the company right away if you have any questions.
  • There is usually a large finance charge for cash advances and interest begins accruing as soon as you take the money out, not after the next statement closing.
  • Be aware of annual fees.
  • Watch out for introductory offers!
  • Think about your purchases. If you are not able to afford the purchase now, chances are you won't be able to afford it in a month when the credit card bill comes in!
If you get behind :-
  • Cut your recreational expenses.
  • Call your credit card company. They may be willing to work out a repayment schedule with you.
  • Develop a budget and stick with it! Everyone makes mistakes, but don't prolong yours. Bad credit will follow you and hurt your chances for mortgages or loans down the road.
  • Look into credit counseling services. Many offer educational programs or individual counseling sessions to help you get back on track.

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