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5 Ways to Understand Your Credit Card's Fine Print

5 Ways to Understand Your Credit Card's Fine Print

Jennifer Openshaw | WeSeed

If you’re like a lot of folks, you may have just received a “Dear Valued Customer” letter in the mail from your credit card company. No, you aren’t being fired, but it might feel like it.

If you have an affiliate card issued through one of the big banks, it starts like this: “This challenging business climate has led Citibank, the issuer of [XYZ] Gold MasterCard…to notify us…they are making changes to the terms of many Citibank © credit card offerings….including the [XYZ] MasterCard product.”

Uh-oh — here it comes.

The enclosed material, one of those multipage fine-print deals, starts off with “The Changes.” It tells you that the APR, minimum-finance charges, transaction fees for foreign purchases, and “other fees” have changed, and that “supplemental pricing information” appears in “…your new card agreement [which] follows this notice.”

Changed from what to what? Unless you have the last version of this document handy, you probably won’t know what or how much. Like too many things in personal finance, you don’t know what you don’t know.

You’ll find a lot of these changes these days. First, because of the banking crisis, cash-strapped banks are scrounging for cash wherever they can. Second, new federal legislation that takes effect in 2010 bans universal default, double-cycle billing, and a host of other evils. That’s the good news. The bad: This is driving banks to get ahead of the potential $12 billion in lost revenue.

So here’s what to do.

Call an agent
Pick up the phone immediately and find a live agent willing to explain the changes.

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