A free period -- also called a "grace period" -- allows you to avoid the finance charge by paying your current balance in full before the "due date" shown on your statement. Knowing whether a credit card plan gives you a free period is especially important if you plan to pay your account in full each month. If there is no free period, the card issuer will impose a finance charge from the date you use your credit card or from the date each credit card transaction is posted to your account. If your credit card plan allows a free period, the card issuer must mail your bill at least 14 days before your payment is due. This is to ensure that you have enough time to make your payment by the due date.
Why Does APR fluctuate?
some credit card plans allow the card issuer to change the annual percentage rate on your account when interest rates or other economic Indicators (called indexes) change. Because the rate change is linked to the performance of the index, which may rise or fall, these plans are commonly called "variable rate" plans. Rate changes raise or lower the amount of the finance charge you pay on your account. If the credit card you are considering has a variable rate feature, the card issuer must tell you that the rate may vary and how the rate is determined, including which index is used and what additional amount (the "margin") is added to the index to determine your new rate. You also must be told how much and how often your rate may change.
Previous Balance. As the name suggests, this balance is simply the amount that you owed at the end of the previous billing period. Payments, credits, or new purchases made during the current billing period are not taken into account. Some creditors also exclude unpaid finance charges in computing this balance. If you do not understand how the balance on your account is computed, ask the card issuer. (An explanation of how the balance was determined must appear on the billing statements the card issuer provides you and on applications and pre-approved solicitations the card issuer may send you.)
I'm a foreigner and need a credit card to establish credit. I have a Social Security number, but I?’m not a U.S. resident. Are there any cards that I may apply for and get approved?
There are many cards you can apply for, as long as you have a social security number. However, you may find it difficult to get approved because you do not have a credit history in the U.S. To start building a credit history in the U.S., you need to obtain credit from a credit card company or bank that reports to all three of the major credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax and TransUnion). You might have to consider credit cards with higher interest rates, security deposits, lower credit balances or application fees. Read all the terms and conditions thoroughly to protect yourself from a card that will cause you more harm than good. If you have a checking or savings account, apply for your bank?’s credit card. They may approve you since you have a financial history with them. Also, they may add a stipulation that late or missed payments will be withdrawn automatically from your checking or savings account. Remember: always avoid any credit card offers that charge high fees. There are plenty of options out there to help you establish credit. You do not have to go into high debt to do so. Once you establish a positive credit history, you can then get approved for credit cards that cost you less and offer you more.
Annual Percentage Rate
All cards have an Annual Percentage Rate (APR) and many have an Annual Fee. The APR is what makes creditors money off your charges. For each penny you charge, interest accrues monthly until you pay that penny off. Cards can have APRs as low as 0% (although 0% is only offered during a short introductory period) and as high as 29%. It is up to you to know what the APR on your card is and whether or not it is a fixed rate, or if it can be changed at any time. You might only charge $20, but you will also owe your creditor the interest that accrues on that $20. However, if you pay off your complete balance by the due date, no interest will accrue.
some credit cards also have annual fees, which can run as high as $75-$100. Fortunately, the majority of credit card offers for students have an annual fee of $0. Think of it as membership fee, which is tacked onto your balance once a year just for having the credit card. You are expected to pay this fee, and it will collect interest as part of your balance owed. However, if you pay your balance owed by the due date, you will not have to pay any interest
Every credit card has a credit limit. It can be anywhere from a few hundred dollars to $250,000. There are even cards, such as the MBNA Quantum Card, that has a credit limit of $1 million. This limit is all you are allowed to spend. Once you charge the full limit on your card, your card can not be used until the balance is paid down some. The more you charge on your credit card, the higher your minimum monthly payment will be. Some cards do not prevent you from charging over your credit limit. If you do so, you will find your next monthly bill has over the limit fees added to your balance. You will then be required to pay the total amount over the limit and all the penalty fees in order to avoid even more over the limit fees the next billing cycle. (Change to: You will then be required to pay at least an amount you charged over credit limit and all the penalty fees, in order to avoid even more over the limit fees the next billing cycle) As you can see, your credit card bill could easily grow out of control if you get over the limit. The moral is, stay under your credit limit!
What is APR?
Annual Percentage Rate. The "annual percentage rate," or APR, is disclosed to you when you apply for a card, again when you open the account, and it is also noted on each bill you receive. It is a measure of the cost of credit, expressed as a yearly rate. The card issuer also must disclose the "periodic rate" -- that is, the rate the card issuer applies to your outstanding account balance to figure the finance charge for each billing period
Many credit cards allow cash advances When you get a cash advance off your credit card, you either use your card to get cash from your bank teller or ATM machine, or you use one of the paper checks that came with your credit card. A cash advance can help you when you are short on cash and desperately need it, but it can also cost you much more than a regular charge on your credit card. There is usually an initial fee just for getting a cash advance and a higher interest rate on the cash amount borrowed. These fees add to your balance owed and can make your balance grow more each month than you anticipate. For these reasons, you should limit cash advances to emergency situations.
I wanted to get a credit card but I do not have any credit history. Are there other ways to build a credit history?
To someone seeking credit for the first time, it may seem like a vicious circle: You cant get credit without a credit history, and you cant establish a credit history without credit! Frustrating, isnt it? Interestingly, some institutions only look only at your salary, job and the other financial information that you put on the application to determine if you qualify for their card. However most will be interested in your track record -- How have you handled other debts -- and will ask to see your credit report.
To get the story on you, institutions will turn to information provided by credit-reporting agencies or credit bureaus like Equifax that collect, store and quantify information about borrowers. The records show your credit history -- how much credit youve received and how faithfully youve repaid. Fortunately, even if youve never had a Mastercard, American Express, Visa, Discover, or other major credit card, you can still build a good credit history:
?• Open a checking account or savings account or both. Although not part of your credit history, your accounts may be checked by potential lenders as evidence that you have money and know how to manage it.
?• Cancelled checks can be used to show that you pay utilities or rent bills regularly, a sign of reliability.
?• Apply for a department store credit card. Stores dont ask for credit histories as often as major credit card institutions, so you should be able to get a card based on your annual salary. Then, repaying your store bills on time becomes a major ""positive"" in your credit history.
?• Look for a financial institution that will allow you to deposit funds to serve as collateral for a credit card. Some institutions issue a credit card with a credit limit equal to the amount on deposit. These cards are relatively easy to obtain and as with your department store card, paying these bills on time will enhance your credit history.
?• If you dont have a credit history because you?’re new in town, request a summary of any credit record kept by a credit bureau in your former town. Dont know whom to contact? Ask the bank or department store in your former town for the name of the agency it reports to.
You may already have a great credit history and not realize it. If you do, its time to ""comparison shop"" the credit card companies and find out who has the best deal to offer you.