Educational Consumer Tips

Credit Card Offers

Author: Better Business Bureau

The following is BBB general information and is not intended as a report on any specific company.

Evaluating credit offers may require some investigation to make sure you choose a card that fits your budget and spending habits. To assist in determining if an offer is right for you, the BBB suggests the following tips. 

Red Flags 

Not all credit offers are legitimate, so proceed with caution if you receive:

*Classified ads, e-mail or telephone solicitations that offer guaranteed credit cards for advance fees. These offers may have terms and conditions that severely restrict their use, or you may never receive the card at all. 

*Promises you'll secure a credit card regardless of your credit history. 

*Solicitations from credit card issuers not located in the United States and/or that require a fee to process your application. 

*Offers that appear to be for a credit card, but in reality only extend a credit line for the issuing company's website or catalog products. 

Legitimate Offers 

To find a legitimate offer, you might consider talking with your bank representatives. Your bank may issue a card that suits your needs, or may have recommendations for finding legitimate offers with other companies. If your credit history is bad, it may be in your best interest to get a "secured" card. A secured card requires you to place a deposit in an account at the issuing bank equal to your credit limit. 

Other tips for legitimate offers:

*Talk with a credit card broker. Keep in mind you will pay more if you deal with a broker instead of directly with the credit card issuer. 

*Look for offers that do not charge an annual fee. * Read the fine print. Find out all of the card's terms and conditions, including if there is a grace period during which you may avoid finance charges and late penalties by paying your balance in full by the due date. Make sure to get details about the offer in writing. 

*Look for low annual percentage rates (APR). Read the fine print to make sure you understand under what conditions the APR may change, such as if payments are late, etc. Be aware that cash advances may incur much higher APRs.

*Obtain a BBB Business Review on the issuing company before accepting an offer. 

Using Credit Responsibly 

Once you've obtained a credit card, the BBB suggests some basic steps to make sure you maintain a good credit rating. 

*Accept a smaller line of credit until you're certain you can pay off your balance each month, or within a reasonable amount of time. Avoid the temptation of high credit lines. 

*Pay more than the minimum monthly payment due. If you cannot pay the full balance each month, at least double the minimum payment to pay down your balance sooner. 

*Avoid over the limit fees by frequently checking your balance and staying within your budget.

*Do not use cash advances except in extreme emergencies.

*Make sure you avoid late charges by remitting your payment at least ten business days prior to the due date, or consider making online payments. 

For more information, contact

Better Business Bureau Serving Upstate NY 
(800) 828-5000 

New York State Attorney General 
(800) 771-7755 

New York State Consumer Protection Board 
(800) 697-1220 

Federal Trade Commission (FTC) 
( 877) 382-4357 

This report is general in nature and is not intended as a Business Review report on any company, service or product.