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Choosing and Using Credit Cards

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Choosing and Using Credit Cards

Chances are you've received your share of "pre-approved" credit card offers in the mail, some with low introductory rates and other perks. Many of these solicitations urge you to accept "before the offer expires." Before you accept, shop around to get the best deal.

Credit Card Terms

A credit card is a form of borrowing that often involves charges. Credit terms and conditions affect your overall cost. So its wise to compare terms and fees before you agree to open a credit or charge card account. The following are some important terms to consider that generally must be disclosed in credit card applications or in solicitations that require know application. You also may want to ask about these terms when you're shopping for a card.

Annual Percentage Rate. The ANNUAL PERCENTAGE RATE is a measure of the cost of credit, expressed as a yearly rate. It also must be disclosed before you become obligated on the account and on your account statements.

The card issuer also must disclose the "periodic rate" - the rate applied to your outstanding balance to figure the finance charge for each billing period.

Some credit card plans allow the issuer to change your ANNUAL PERCENTAGE RATE when interest rates or other economic indicators - called indexes - change. Because the rate change is linked to the index's performance, these plans are called "variable rate" programs. Rate changes raise or lower the finance charge on your account. If you're considering a variable rate card, the issuer must also provide various information that discloses to you:

 that the rate may change; and

 how the rate is determined - which index is used and what additional amount, the "margin," is added to determine your new rate.

At the latest, you also must receive information, before you become obligated on the account, about any limitations on how much and how often your rate may change.

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