0% Apr Credit Cards
0% APR credit cards are becoming extremely common in the world today, thanks to a growing problem with credit card debt and a growing awareness on the part of banks and credit card companies that people want to find a way out of their financial trouble. And 0 interest credit cards at first seem like an ideal way out. Imagine, no additional finance charges accumulating while paying down your existing balances... It’s almost too good to be true! And it is almost like magic--in the sense that magic is often an illusion.
This isn’t to imply that the credit card companies are being deceptive when offering 0% APR credit cards, because they aren’t. Their exact pricing policies are right there on the application pages to any 0% APR credit card, though many people just see the big zero and coast on through the application. But before making any financial agreement, especially an agreement to enter into what amounts to a borrower/lender agreement with a bank or corporation, it pays to stop and take a closer look at exactly what you’re agreeing to.
First of all, there’s the well-established fact that 0% APR is always an introductory rate, lasting anywhere from six to twelve months. Since the major way a credit card company makes money is through interest rates, it wouldn’t make much sense for the company to do anything else. At some point, they will have to charge you interest, even on a 0% APR credit card, which is no problem, as long as you know how much interest you’re getting, right?
But it’s still important to look deeper. Many credit card companies charge extremely high interest rates--18% and up--on even 0 interest credit cards, once the introductory period has expired. Often, there are variable interest rates to justify this: a fairly low rate (maybe 11% to 14%) for cardholders with the best credit rating, a medium rate (17% to 19%) for cardholders with still okay credit, and a standard rate (as high, in many cases, as 23%) for cardholders with average credit. Still higher is the default rate, which you enter if the credit card company decides, for whatever reason, that you’ve been making too many late payments or that you’ve become a bad credit risk. At this point, your interest rate shoots up to as many as twenty-four percentage points above the prime rate (8% as of June, 2006), leading to a default rate of a massive 32%.
So imagine this scenario. You’ve gotten into some difficulty with credit balances and you’re looking for a way to stabilize your finances before paying everything off. Say you’ve got $1,000 in your existing balances across several cards. You apply for a 0% APR card with a balance transfer option and debt consolidation on the existing card (assuming there’s no fee for balance transfers.) So now you have a 0 interest credit card with twelve months to pay it off. For whatever reason, your expected financial windfalls don’t come through, or required purchases offset your balance payments and your balance remains constant at $1,000 after a year. Because you’ve got average credit, your APR starts at 22%, adding $220 to your balances the first month, and more thereafter. You miss some payments, bringing your APR up to almost 33%. At this point, a full third of your balances are being added on to your debts every month, and you may start looking around for still more 0% APR credit cards for salvation.
With some sound financial prudence and a determination to pay off your balances within the introductory period, 0% APR credit cards can be valuable resource for getting out of debt. But make sure, when you’re trying to get out of debt, that you know what agreement you’re getting into first.
Americans have fallen into the debt trap to an extent that our grandparents could never have imagined. We have to have everything, and we have to have it now. As a consequence, many of us are drowning in credit card debt. Here is a possible solution.
The days of low prime rates are over now, and 0 APR credit cards are harder to find. Not impossible, though. Many companies still offer 0 APR credit cards for limited period only so that they can attract new customers. This initial period of up to 12 months can save you buckets of money if you have high interest credit cards.
This is how to you can handle it: First, transfer your balance from your high interest credit card to your new one. This will lower your monthly payments and save you money every month. Second, don’t go shopping yet. Rather, take these savings and pay down the balance on your credit card. Now you’re paying principal instead of interest. Do this for the entire initial period and you’ll be surprised at how much you can pay off your balance.
Third, don’t use your new credit card to spend more money, because when the higher interest rate becomes applicable you could end up with an even higher balance that you had before. Once the 0 APR period ends, you can take advantage of the extra money provided by lower payments, right? Maybe. Since you’ve gotten so used to high credit card payments, why not delay your gratification a step further and continue to make payments at the same amount, thereby paying off the debt faster? In this way your new credit card can be used to motivate you to eliminate your long-term credit card debt. Note that your 0 APR credit card should never be used to spend more – only to lower your debt. Once the higher interest rate kicks in, your new line of credit is a useless to you as your old one was.
Credit Counseling Agencies
Non-profit credit counseling agencies enjoy special benefits because of their status. There is a tax advantage; non-profits enjoy tax exemptions on both a state and federal level. Non-profit agencies are also eligible for both public and private grants to support their mission.
Non-profit agencies have a better reputation among both creditors and debtors. In order to initiate Fair Share contributions, non-profit status is mandatory. Some states even allow non-profit agencies greater freedom from consumer protection laws. Debtors feel more comfortable dealing with a non-profit agency than one with a more commercial focus.
Most major credit counseling agencies flaunt their status as non-profits, but some fail to live up to that promise. Some unscrupulous agencies are using their non-profit status to lure in unsuspecting clients and to fleece them. Debtors need to look beyond the non-profit label and investigate the agency before enrolling in a credit repair program.
Some consumer credit counseling agencies are truly in it to help people get back on the road to financial well-being. Agencies accredited by the National Foundation for Credit Counseling or the Association of Independent Consumer Credit Counseling Agencies offer reputable services to their clients. Such agencies will not make false claims about fixing credit histories or credit scores; they will paint a realistic picture of your situation and tailor their actions to meet your needs.
Before enrolling in a credit counseling program, you should research the agency carefully. Check with the Better Business Bureau to see if the agency has a history of complaints. Visit online forums to read reviews from former clients. Make sure that the agency is reputable and reliable before granting access to your financial information.
Solid, reputable credit counseling agencies are an invaluable resource for debtors who have reached the end of their financial rope. A good credit counselor will work with you to create a personalized budget and debt management plan, while working with your creditors to reduce monthly payments. Lowering interest rates and erasing finance charges and late payment penalties are another way a reliable counselor can help you. A counselor’s ability to eliminate phone calls and dunning letters from creditors is enough to make most consumers glad they chose to enter credit counseling.