Wednesday, November 19, 2008

How To Beat Card Sharks

If you're considering a credit offer, carefully examine the terms of the contract. If you don't understand something, call the issuer's customer service department. If you're not satisfied with the response, don't sign up.

  • Remember that the due date on your card statement is just that. A postmark date is not the same thing. Because many card issuers impose ultra-specific cutoff times (American Express, for example, won't process some payments received after 12 noon in a customer's time zone until the following day), try to make your payment, by mail or online, well in advance.

  • One way to avoid going over your limit (and facing extra fees as a result): Go to the card company's website. Most will alert you via e-mail when you creep close to your cap.

  • If you've historically been a good customer, it can't hurt to ask the customer service department to waive over-limit or other fees.

  • Similarly, if your interest rate goes up, it's worth asking to have it lowered. A study by the Massachusetts Public Interest Research group found that when cardholders requested a reduction, almost 6 in 10 got their rate reduced by at least a third with just one 5-minute call.

-RD, -8-27-07-