Some credit-card fees overlooked

Your Money

March 25, 2007|By McClatchy-Tribune

You could be missing the fine print — Federal law dictates that credit-card issuers can't hide fees from customers. But does that mean you're not paying any fees you don't know about? Not necessarily.

You could be missing the fine print - and the many fees that come with everyday transactions (or blunders). In fact, Americans pay about $31 billion in credit-card fees each year. The ones most commonly overlooked:

The late fee

Banks charge as much as $39 (on top of finance charges) if your payment doesn't arrive on time. If you're prone to forgetting, schedule automatic payments. If it's only happened once or twice, talk to your creditor. They might waive the fee.

Balance-transfer fee

Many cards will advertise low APRs on balance transfers to entice customers, but the transfer fee could negate the advantages. Some cards don't have them.

Foreign-currency fee

If you use your card abroad, you're going to have to pay a hefty fee - typically around 3 percent of your purchase - so stick with traveler's checks. If you must use a card, look for one with no fee or a low rate.

Cash-advance fee

Use your credit card to get cash from an ATM, and you're actually taking out a loan - probably with a very high interest rate. But you may also have to pay a transaction fee both to your credit-card company and to the bank that owns the ATM you use. All in all, it's not worth it. Best to avoid cash advances altogether.

Over-limit fee

Exceed the limit on your credit card and you may have to fork over another $39. Wait - doesn't that undermine the point of a credit limit? Perhaps, but some companies will OK the overcharge as a "convenience" for you. (But wouldn't it be more convenient if they just raised your credit limit?) You may want to explicitly let your credit-card company know not to let you charge more than your limit.

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