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Using Your Credit Card: What Is Its Purpose?

Aug 18, 2007
There is a wonderful feeling to having a credit card when you need one, but that blanket term "credit card" can be misleading at times. Not all credit cards are the same, and this goes beyond the APR that most people are aware of. Before choosing a credit card, consider what it is that you plan to use it for. This can make a big difference in how you use it and what you will pay in charges and fees for using it.

There are some consumers who will pay off their bill each and every month, and rarely, if ever, carry the balance over into the next billing cycle. If you intend to follow this routine, then APR will not matter as much to you. Keep in mind that finance charges do not kick in unless you carry over a balance. If you pay in full, you do not incur finances charges which are based on the company APR.

For those who will be paying the full balance each month, consider a credit card that has a longer grace period and has no annual fees. This allows you to use the credit for little, if any, charge. Do keep in mind, however, that if you happen to lapse and carry a balance, you will have to pay the finance charges and then APR will matter to you.

Most people, however, do carry over a balance and for those individuals it is important to find the credit card that offers the lowest annual percentage rate (APR). The APR is the number that the credit card company will use to calculate your monthly finance charge so the lower this number the less money you will pay.

If you think that you may use your credit card to get cash advances, you will certainly want to look at the fees and charges for that service. It is important to remember that many, if not most, of the credit card companies charge a higher rate for cash advances than they do for purchases. Some companies will charge a substantial amount more and you would do well to avoid using these cards for cash advance purposes.

Many people are lured into poor credit card choices by the promotions that many companies offer. These might include such things as frequent flyer miles, phone minutes, rebates and other things. There is nothing wrong with opting into these programs if they are benefits that you are going to actually use. The old adage that nothing is free applies here as well. Many of the companies that offer these promotions will have a slightly higher APR to help offset the cost of the programs. Make sure you look for that before you sign up, as it may not be in your best interest to pay higher rates for benefits that you will not use.

In order to find out what the APR and other fees are for any particular company, you can visit their website or you can look at the information that comes to you through the mail. Federal law requires that all solicitations and applications for credit cards include key information on the rates and fees that they charge consumers. This information must be clearly printed and if you have to hunt for it, then you may want to avoid dealing with that company.
About the Author
Peter Kenny is a writer for The Thrifty Scot, please visit us at Credit Report and Credit Cards
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