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Consider These Factors

There are many types of credit cards with various features, but there is no one best credit card. The card you use depends entirely on how you plan to use it. Are you going to use it for everyday purchases or larger purchases? Do you plan to pay your balance off each month?When you apply for a credit card, consider:

  • The Annual Percentage Rate (APR). If the interest rate is variable, how is it determined and when can it change?
  • Periodic rate. This is the interest rate used to determine the finance charge on your balance each billing period.
  • Annual fee. While some cards have no annual fee, others expect you to pay an amount each year for being a cardholder.
  • Rewards programs. Can you earn points for flights, hotel stays, and gift certificates to your favorite retailers? Use online tools to find the card that offers the best rewards for you.
  • Grace period. This is the number of days you have to pay your bill before finance charges start. Without this period, you may have to pay interest from the date you use your card or when the purchase is posted to your account.
  • Finance charges. Most lenders calculate finance charges using an average daily account balance, which is the average of what you owed each day in the billing cycle. Look for offers that use an adjusted balance, which subtracts your monthly payment from your beginning balance. This method usually has the lowest finance charges. Stay away from offers that use the previous balance in calculating what you owe; this method has the highest finance charge. Also don't forget to check if there is a minimum finance charge.
  • Swipe fees. Some credit card companies may allow individual retailers to set and charge a fee when you swipe your credit card.
  • Other fees. Ask about fees when you get a cash advance, make a late payment, or go over your credit limit. Some credit card companies also charge a monthly fee. Be careful: sometimes companies may also try to upsell by offering other services such as credit protection, insurance, or debt coverage. The Federal Reserve has more information about credit card fees.

The Fair Credit and Charge Card Disclosure Act require credit and charge card issuers to include this information on credit applications. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) offers a wide range of free publications on credit and consumer rights. The Federal Reserve Board provides a free brochure on choosing a credit card and a guide to credit protection laws.

Lost and Stolen Credit Cards

Immediately call the card issuer when you suspect a credit or charge card has been lost or stolen. Once you report the loss or theft of a card, you have no further responsibility for unauthorized charges. In any event, your maximum liability under federal law is $50 per card.

By federal law, once you report the loss or theft of a card, you have no further responsibility for unauthorized charges. In any event, your maximum liability under federal law is $50 per card.