Credit cards come with a host of features and benefits – a good reason why credit cards are a popular phenomenon. If you are looking to apply for a credit card anytime soon, here are 10 things you definitely need to know. These points will give you a better understanding of how credit cards work and what you can expect from them.
Annual fees on credit cards
All credit cards offered by banks (at least a major percentage of them), come with an annual fee. The annual fee mostly varies from one card to another, even in the case of cards offered by the same bank. Usually, Premier cards that offer better benefits than normal cards come with a higher annual fee.
While the Primary card almost certainly comes with an annual fee, supplementary cards also come with an annual fee in most cases. Sometimes, the annual fee on the supplementary card is waived for the first year or so – this is to keep the card more competitive and in-demand. Certain banks waive the annual fee on the primary card as well – for the first year, or first two years, or longer.
Annual rate of interest
All transactions you make using your credit card attract a certain rate of interest known as the annual percentage rate of interest (APR). The interest rate is dependent on the bank that’s offering the card and the type of card.
Banks allow for an interest free period of about 21 days from the release of the statement (again, this depends on the bank and the type of card) and don’t charge an interest if the amount is repaid in full within this interest free window. If the amount isn’t paid before the end of the interest free period, interest charges will accordingly hold applicable.
Cash advance charges
Credit cards enable customers to make emergency cash withdrawals from ATMs. These cash advances carry a handling charge of about 5%-6% of the withdrawn amount, besides interest charges that fall in the range between 23% and 28% . Interest on cash advances is computed on a daily basis at a compounding rate until the amount is repaid in full. Cash advances are usually a risky phenomenon, mostly considering the high interest charges. So if you withdraw money using your credit card, it is advisable that you repay the amount in full at the earliest.
Minimum monthly payments
As a credit card customer, you are required to pay a minimum amount each month – or the entire amount if that’s possible – amounting to 3% of the total monthly outstanding balance. Minimum payments need to be made by the payment due date if late payment charges have to avoided. The minimum payment in your credit card monthly statement can also include pending minimum payments from previous months, late payment charges, cash advance charges, and over-limit fees, if they hold applicable.
Late payment charges
If the minimum amount isn’t paid by the payment due date, banks levy a certain fee, commonly referred to as the late payment fee. The late payment fee for credit cards can be anywhere in the range between $40 and $80, depending on the bank offering the card.
Over-limit fees hold applicable and are levied by the bank if the allocated credit limit is exceeded. Over-limit fees can range between $40 and $60 for credit cards.
Cashback and reward points
An aspect that makes credit-cards a pretty exciting phenomenon is the reward points/cashback that can be earned on purchases. Different cards are structured differently and allow you to earn either cashback or reward points or both, on your purchases. Some cards allow you to earn reward points on groceries, while some other let you earn cashback or reward points on air ticket bookings, retail purchases, etc. Cashback and reward points are features that are specific to certain credit cards and the extent of benefits depends on the type of card and the bank offering the particular card. Reward points earned on purchases can be converted into exciting vouchers, discounts and attractive shopping/retail purchase/online deals from the card’s rewards catalogue.
Certain credit cards allow you to transfer your entire credit card balance to that particular credit card account, enabling you to consolidate your debt. Balance transfer credit cards come with an interest free period of 6 months – 1 year, depending on the card you’ve applied for. In the case of balance transfer cards, banks charge a processing fee and might also charge an interest (unlikely in a majority of cases). After the interest free period (6 months – 1 year depending on the card), normal interest charges on the card are applicable for transactions and cash advances.
In brief, your credit score is a projection of how well you’ve managed your debt in the past. It takes into account your payment patterns and records instances of late payments, credit over limits, loan defaults, history of regular/timely payments, etc, and gives banks an idea of how good you can be at handling debt in the future. A good credit score is vital to getting loan applications and credit card applications approved.
The above mentioned points will come in handy if you are contemplating applying for a credit card. These aspects will give you a comprehensive understanding of how credit cards work, giving you a better idea of what you can expect. These will also work if you are not happy with your current card and are looking to switch over to another credit card as well.