The Center For Debt Management
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Credit Matters:
A Primer on Credit Card Use

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If Your Application Is Denied

If you're turned down for a card, ask why. It may be that you haven't been at your current address or job long enough. Or that your income doesn't meet the issuer's criteria. Different credit card companies have different standards. But if you are turned down by several companies, it may indicate that you are not ready for a credit card.

If you've been denied credit because of information supplied by a credit bureau, federal law requires the creditor to give you the name, address and telephone number of the bureau that supplied the information. If you contact that bureau within 60 days of receiving the denial, you are entitled to a free copy of your report. If your file contains accurate negative information, only time and good credit habits will restore your credit-worthiness. If you find an error in your report, you are entitled to have it investigated by the credit bureau and corrected at no charge.

You should dispute any inaccuracy in your report with the credit bureau and also with the company that furnished the information to the credit bureau.


Get the Best Deal

Fees, charges, and benefits vary among credit card issuers. When you're choosing a credit card, shop around. Compare these important features:

  • Annual percentage rate (APR). The APR is a measure of the cost of credit, expressed as a yearly interest rate. Check out the "periodic rate," too. That's the rate the issuer applies to your outstanding balance to figure the finance charge for each billing period. For example, if you have an outstanding balance of $2,000, with 18.5 percent interest and a low minimum monthly payment, it would take over 11 years to pay off the debt and cost you an additional $1,934 just for interest, which almost doubles the total cost of your original purchase.

  • Grace period. This is the time between the date of a purchase and the date interest starts being charged on that purchase. If your card has a standard grace period you have an opportunity to avoid finance charges by paying your current balance in full. Some issuers allow a grace period for new purchases even if you do not pay your balance in full every month. If there is no grace period, the issuer imposes a finance charge from the date you use your card or from the date each transaction is posted to your account.

  • Annual fees. Many credit card issuers charge an annual fee for granting you credit, typically $15 to $55. Some issuers charge no annual fee.

  • Transaction fees and other charges. Some issuers charge a fee if you use the card to get a cash advance, if you fail to make a payment on time, or if you exceed your credit limit. Some may charge a flat fee every month whether you use the card or not.

  • Customer service. Many issuers have 24-hour, toll-free telephone numbers.

  • Other benefits. Issuers may offer additional benefits, some with a cost, such as: insurance, credit card protection, discounts, rebates, and special merchandise offers.

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