Sunday, May 26, 2024
League of Power

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Consumer Alert – Save A Fortune in 2010

New credit cards laws went into effect last month. Have you noticed any changes to your bill? I have.

The new legislation prohibits a myriad of credit card billing practices that have long irked cardholders. Some of the most important changes require credit card companies to apply your payments to the debt with the highest interest rate. That means if your credit card company charges you 29% for cash advances and 13% for new purchases, then your next payment should be applied to pay off the cash advance debt first.

Another significant change being enacted is that you will get a 45 day notice when your credit card company plans to increase your interest rate. Previously it had only been a 15 day notice which left customers scrambling to find new credit card offers.  If you decide to cancel your credit card, credit card companies must also allow you to pay off your debt at the “old” (lower) rate, and they cannot require you to immediately repay the outstanding balance.

One of the most important changes requires that monthly statements be mailed or delivered at least 21 days before the payment due date, an increase from 14 days. This provides consumers more time to pay the bill before incurring late fees or additional interest charges if there is a grace period.

Overall, it is estimated that these changes will cost the banking industry as much as $50 billion in lost revenue.

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Is this their fault? Yes and no.

If credit card companies had acted responsible instead of putting profits over people then this wouldn’t have happened to them.  They put themselves in this pickle.

But, we the people acted irresponsibly too. We paid for everything with credit cards and never paid the bill.  If you pay your bills on time theses ridiculously high interest rates won’t affect you.

With all of these changes occurring to your credit cards you may want to take a closer look at the cards you hold in your wallet and see if they are still the best fit for you.

Low interest rate credit cards can be a great deal, because they allow you to finance purchases that you cannot afford to pay for all at once. Many offer a great introductory rate, typically ranging from 0% to 3.99% annually.  After the introductory period, the interest rate on these types of cards typically ranges from 6.5% to around 15.99%. These cards are best suited for people who carry a balance month to month.

Before you cut up your old card and apply for a new credit card that offers a lower interest rate try negotiating with your current credit card company.  It works more often than you think and it’s as simple as a 10 minute phone call.

Recently I watched an online video that showed how easy this is to do. You don’t have to be pushy or make threats either.  Simply gather all the credit card offers you’ve received over the last few weeks from rival companies. Then call your credit card company and tell them the rates you’re being offered. Ask if they can offer the same rate.

One of the best cards for low interest rates is the Simmons First Visa Platinum. It offers a 7.25% variable interest rate. It is backed by Visa so it is accepted everywhere.  Also its 20 year track record gives consumers confidence that their rates will remain low.

Another great low interest credit card is the Citi Platinum Select Mastercard. It offers a 0% introductory rate for up to 15 months. It then adjusts up to 11.99% (it may adjust higher for customers with less than perfect credit histories). This card is also a good choice if you want to transfer a balance from another card.

If you are a government employee or a member of the military you can get an even better offer. PenFed offers introductory rates as low as 4.99% for the first 2 years before it adjusts up to 13.99%.

Are you someone who regularly pays off your balance before the end of the month? If so you may instead be interested in credit cards that offer rewards. These credit cards charge slightly higher interest rates, but offer great incentives.

You can expect to earn 1-5% on your purchases. Some rewards cards give a higher rebate for everyday purchases, purchases from places like grocery stores, gas stations, restaurants, and drug store purchases typically earn closer to the 5%.

Many cards reward you in points, which can be redeemed for such benefits as cash, free hotel stays, merchandise, air travel, car rentals, gift certificates, and much more. There are many types of reward credit cards, so look for a card that offers the rewards that are the most attractive to you, and also gives you the greatest savings on your frequent purchases.

I prefer to earn cash back and my pick is the Citi Cash Returns credit card. You earn 1% cash back on every purchase and there is no limit to what items earn you cash back. Citi will also automatically send you a check every time you earn $50 in cash rewards.   This perfect for responsible credit card users and could easily put $100-$400 in your pocket every year.

I also like the Bank of America Rewards Visa. You earn 3% on gas, grocery and drug store purchases for the first 6 months and 1% on all other purchases. This card allows you to redeem rewards for cash, statement credit or payment towards a Bank of America mortgage. You also get a 25% bonus for all cash reward redemption’s of $300 or more. You can start redeeming for cash after you’ve earned $25. There is no limit on the number of points you can earn each year and there is no annual fee.

You can also earn rewards for travel the best way to go is with a credit card that doesn’t restrict you by airline or travel dates. I like the Capital One Venture One Rewards credit card. This card earns you 1.25 miles for every dollar you spend in purchases. There is no limit on the miles you can earn and miles don’t expire. There are no black-out dates so you can fly any day, any time. I picked this card not only for the great rewards it offers but because it also offers no annual fee and 0% APR on purchases till March of 2011.

If you have suddenly high expenses or need extra cash, a credit card with a low interest rate for balance transfers can help tide you over until your income catches up. Balance transfer credit card offers are designed to help people consolidate their credit card debt onto one card, thus saving money on interest charges.

Zero interest for balance transfers allow you to make large purchases earlier than you otherwise could. For example say you just bought a house that doesn’t have any appliances in the kitchen. Purchasing a dishwasher, refrigerator, and a stove can easily run you $5,000-$10,000. That kind of money is hard to swing unless you’ve planned ahead for it. But if you purchase the appliances with your credit card and then transfer the balance to a card like the Discover More credit card you can easily pay for the appliances over time, spreading out the payments before your interest rate goes up. The Discover More credit card offers 0% APR on balance transfers for a full 12 months and 0% APR on new purchases for a full 6 months. This card can also be a good card if you’re looking for a rewards card. It offers 5% cash back for purchases like gas, groceries and restaurants and 1% on all other purchases.

If you have bad credit you should only get a new credit card to transfer balances onto lower interest cards. Use this time to clear your debts with cash and then ease into a credit card that earns you rewards. You’ve already proven yourself to be bad with money so you don’t need to get a credit card that makes you feel like you’re using monopoly money.

But once you pay off your debts a credit card like Citi Secured Mastercard is one of the best for people with bad credit history. Secured cards are different than other credit cards. They require customers to put down a cash deposit. Usually secured cards are not a good choice because the terms and conditions are very unfavorable to the customer. But Citi Secured Mastercard $29 annual fee is low compared to other secured credit cards and it offers a reasonable 13.24% variable interest rate. It also does not have an income requirement or insist on a co-signer. In addition, this credit card pays interest on the cash deposit from the customer, which is an extremely rare find with secured credit cards. Most secured cards pay little or no interest on cash deposits. Citi Secured Mastercard invests the deposit in a 18-month CD paying competitive rates.

Although the reforms are the most dramatic changes in credit card laws in decades, they do not protect card users from everything.  The next time your credit card bill comes in the mail study it a little bit closer. See if you can notice any changes from previous bills. And when you get a new credit card be sure that the offer is right for you.

Keeping Money In Your Pocket,

Nancy Patterson


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