Educational Consumer Tips

Credit Card Offers

Author: Better Business Bureau

The following comments provide general information for consumers, and do not necessarily reflect the practices or record of any particular company.

Find out who sent the offer. If you see a name such as "Processing Center" or "Credit Card Administration", keep looking. The company name may appear on the reply envelope, the letterhead of the principal offer, or in the fine print of the terms and conditions of the offer. Although you may see VISA or MasterCard, do not assume that the letter is from a bank issuing those cards. It may be from an independent marketer, attempting to charge you for mailing you a credit card application. Is the offer for a bankcard or merchant card? Not all credit card offers are for bankcards. Some companies offer credit cards good only with the issuing merchant.

Does the offer say pre-approved? If no dollar amount or range is mentioned, to be pre-approved may mean very little. Before applying, ask the issuer to be specific about the amount of credit being offered. Pre-approved or not, you will have to fill out a credit application. Be sure the information is accurate. If you default on your payments, your application may be reviewed to see if you lied, indicating intent to deceive.

Many cards have up-front fees, such as application fees, annual and secured account fees, finance charges, interest rates and late fees. Find out exactly who you must pay, how much and what for.

(also see "Unsolicited Mail, Telemarketing and EMail: Where to go to Just Say No" general advice report)

These are some helpful tips from your Better Business Bureau.