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The Importance of Disclosures

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Read and save the "disclosures" describing a credit card's features and fees so you know how to save money. "When it comes to information about the terms of your credit card, be a pack rat," said Janet Kincaid, FDIC Senior Consumer Affairs Officer
Key information to look for and keep: What is the interest rate and how can it change? Is there an annual fee? What about charges for late payments, returned checks, balance transfers or exceeding your credit limit? What's the cost of a "cash advance" -- typically meaning you use your credit card to get cash from an ATM or to make a purchase using one of the blank "convenience checks" sent with monthly statements? Cash advances are likely to carry sizable upfront fees, a high interest rate and no grace period before interest begins accumulating. Also, stay on top of fee increases by reading and saving the disclosures sent in monthly statements or other mailings.
Avoiding additional charges isn't the only reason to become an avid reader of your credit card company's literature. Potential cost savings built into your card also are worth exploring. For example, your credit card may automatically include, at no extra charge, extended warranties on purchases and insurance for car rentals. Your card also may offer cash back on purchases, rewards good for airline travel or products and services, and various other extras. Also be aware of the rules governing these perks because limitations, fees and deadlines may greatly reduce their value.