Credit Card Terms–Your Agreement Online
Credit Card Terms Under Microscope
Back in September 2006, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) published a 114-page report about credit card trends and use. Reading it today, you’re reminded of two things:
- How much credit card terms have changed
- How quickly most of us have forgotten how things used to be
Credit Card Rates: Up or Down?
For example, were credit card rates higher or lower in the good old days? Well, the answer to that one depends on who you are (or, more precisely, how healthy your credit score is) and how good you are at managing your money.
But, for most credit card users, rates today are lower. The GAO report points out that, before about 1990, nearly all credit cards charged a single, fixed rate of about 20 percent, and levied very few fees and penalties. Today, according to IndexCreditCards.com, the average credit card rate for consumers is typically between 16 and 17 percent.
However, anyone with a good credit score should be able to get a much lower rate than that, while anyone who has been late making monthly payments or who has exceeded their limit could easily be paying interest that is almost twice as high.
Credit Card Companies, Terms, and Complexity
One of the side effects of this re-engineering of their revenues by credit card companies is a very considerable increase in the complexity of the deals on offer. And this, some believe, means that very, very few consumers have a real understanding of the contract they’re entering into when they sign a credit card application.
After all, who, other than a lawyer–and a geeky lawyer at that–actually reads credit card terms and conditions? And how many of us could easily find a copy of our card agreements?
Well, actually, almost all of us. Because, starting earlier this month, the Federal Reserve’s website now hosts a searchable database that contains about 1,000 standard credit card agreements. So all the different ways in which your card issuer is entitled to gouge you is now likely to be a matter of public record.
When Credit Card Companies Are Good Guys
Earlier this week, the New York Times pointed out that some credit card companies have already moved to make their agreements more comprehensible and accessible. And it singled out Bank of America and Chase Bank for special mention.
Chase, in fact, revised its credit card terms and conditions very soon after that 2006 GAO report was published. If you’d prefer to carry a card from a company that’s demonstrated its commitments to its customers’ interests, then you could check out these Chase products:
- Chase Sapphire Preferred
- Chase Slate
- Ink Bold Business Charge Card
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